How to Find Someone in Prison or Jail

Find Someone Who is in Prison
Lear about the prison and correctional system.

Starting Your Search

If you need to find someone who is in prison, it is important to know exactly what type of facility they are incarcerated in. A prison, also known as a penitentiary or correctional facility is a place in which individuals are physically confined and are deprived of a range of personal freedoms.

Individuals held within prisons and corrections facilities have been either charged with a crime or convicted of a crime. Individuals who have been charged with a crime are incarcerated until they are brought to trial or released. Those who are officially charged with a crime will remain in a prison or jail facility until they completed the duration of their sentence.

An inmate is a person confined to an institution such as a prison (as a convict) or hospital (as a patient).

What are Corrections?

Corrections refer to the supervision of persons arrested for, convicted of, or sentenced for criminal offenses. Correctional populations fall into two general categories: institutional corrections and community corrections.

Who Operates Prisons?

Prisons are operated by city, county, state, federal and military officials. In some cases, they are run by private organizations under contract with a government organization.

Prison Staff / Employees

The primary administrative officer in charge at a prison is the Warden. The Warden oversees the operations of the correctional facility. In addition, they manage the activities of the facility staff and are responsible for managing the actual facilities (buildings and equipment).

A Correctional Officer is a person who is charged with the responsibility of the supervision of prisoners in a jail, prison or detention center. Other terms for prison officer include Corrections Officer, Correctional Officer, Prison Guard, Detention Officer, and Prison Warder.

Correctional officers are generally responsible for the care, custody, and control of individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been convicted of a crime and have been sentenced to serve time in a prison or jail. Corrections officers are also responsible for the safety and security of a correctional facility.

Most prison officers are employed by the federal or state government, city, or county, though some Correctional Officers are employed by private companies.

As of this writing, there were approximately 500,000 prison officers employed in various facilities throughout the United States.

How to Find Someone Who is in Prison?

The easiest way to find someone who is in prison is to visit the website Vine. VINE is a website that lets victims of crime and other concerned citizens access information about offenders. The service is available via the website, a mobile app, and a toll-free number. Victims can register to receive alerts about inmate status changes via phone, email, and text.

To do a search, visit the website and select the appropriate state from the drop-down menu. After you make a selection, you will go to the corresponding state’s VINE home page. From there, you can either search a statewide database of inmates, or drill-down into county databases, where available. From there, you can find a specific offender, edit your registration details, or access additional resources.

To find an offender, click on the “Find an Offender” icon. From the next page, enter the incarcerated person’s last name and first name. Alternatively, you can enter their inmate ID number, if you have it. In addition, you can click on the “Advanced Search” link to add other search parameters such as Facility Name, Date of Birth and Age Range.

How to Find an Inmate in a Federal Prison

To find someone who is in a federal prison, use the Federal inmate locator. This search tool allows you to search a database of federal inmates who were incarcerated from 1982 to present. Once you find the individual, you can use the Federal prison facility locator to learn more about the specific facility where they are being held. This search provides the details on such things as the type of prison and the security (e.g. minimum security, maximum security, etc.).

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (often referred to operationally as the BOP) is a federal law enforcement agency that is a subdivision of the United States Department of Justice. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system in the United States of America. The Federal Bureau of Prisons was established in 1930 to:

  • Provide more progressive and humane care for Federal inmates
  • Professionalize the prison service and its operation
  • Ensure consistent and centralized administration of the federal prisons in operation at the time

According to its official web site, the Federal Bureau of Prisons consists of more than 119 prison institutions, six regional offices, its headquarters office in Washington D.C., two prison staff training centers, and 28 community corrections offices. These numbers change each year due to prison openings and closings, so check the official website for the most up to date numbers.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the custody and care of over 200,000 federal offenders in the federal prison system. Approximately 85 percent of these federal inmates are physically confined in correctional facilities or detention centers operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The remainder of the inmates are confined through agreements with state and local governments or through contracts with privately-operated community corrections centers, detention centers, prisons, and juvenile facilities.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is also responsible for carrying out all judicially mandated federal executions (other than those carried out under military law) in the United States and maintains the federal lethal injection chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.

How to Check an Inmate’s Background

If you need to learn more about someone who is incarcerated, a BeenVerified Background Check Report allows you to search billions of public records online in just a few seconds. Search for criminal records, arrest records, bankruptcies and more. In addition, you can find people using address, phone number and email search. BeenVerified offers an easy and affordable way to run a background check.

Key Statistics about Prisons and Correctional Facilities

As of the end of 2015:

  • More than 6.7 million people were supervised by adult correctional systems in the United States,
  • About 1 in 37 adults (or 2.7% of all adults) was under some form of correctional supervision
  • More than 2.1 million people were either under the jurisdiction of state or federal prisons or in the custody of local jails
  • The state prison population decreased by almost 2% from 2014 to 2015.
  • On an average day, an estimated 721,300 inmates were confined in county and city jails

For more in depth stats, visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The Bureau provides data and research on state and federal prisoners, jail populations, probation, and administrative data on jail facilities and staff.

Prison and Prisoner Resources

Following are resources for prisons, correctional institutions, jails, and inmate searches.

  • Amnesty International – Amnesty international is a global network of human rights activists who campaign to end abuses of human rights. Their website provides resources, news, and data on human rights abuses around the world.
  • Corrections Connection Network – Provides news, data and vendor intelligence for the corrections community. Provides resources, tools and forums for corrections professionals. Also a great place to stay in touch with the latest news about what is going on within the system. Includes links to inmate locate queries for each state.
  • – shows aerial photos of prisons in the United States.
  • Prison Policy Initiative – Attempts to document the impact of mass incarceration on individuals and communities in an attempt to improve the criminal justice system. The organization produces cutting edge research to expose harm created by mass incarceration and then sponsors advocacy campaigns to create awareness about the issues.

What Do Private Investigators Need to Know

Private investigators and law enforcement officer should be familiar with prisons. In some cases, people will hire a PI to help find someone who is in prison. In addition, PI’s often enter prisons to talk to inmates who may have been a party to a crime, or who may have witnessed some act.

If you have any questions about how to find someone who is in prison, jail, or otherwise incarcerated, please leave a message below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


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