Both federal and some state prisons provide prison-status information about inmates through online databases. Typically, all that's needed to search for a specific inmate is the prisoner’s name and state. Federal and state prison systems provide different types of inmate information, but both supply date of incarceration and release date. Not all states offer online information, but you can access prisoner information by directly contacting the state prison system by phone.
Determine if the inmate was charged with a federal or state crime. Knowing the criminal charges will help you decide whether to search the federal or state prison system database.
Charges such as domestic violence, abuse, and theft fall under state violations. If the inmate is charged with a crime such as fraud, gun or drug possession, or tax evasion, search the federal prison system.
Visit the appropriate inmate-locating system online or by phone. For free federal prison information, visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons database. A free one-stop state and federal locator is Inmates Plus, which also lists a variety of county jails listed by state in alphabetical order.
Alaska, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming do not offer online databases. However, they do have websites with contact information.
Input the offender’s full name or identification number into the state or federal database to retrieve information. You'll need the inmate's last name to complete the search. Searches also scan various areas of the prison system, such as lists of inmates who have been released or escaped.
You may need the prisoner’s state, first name, or additional information if the search retrieves multiple listings.
Click on the prisoner’s name to view information. Federal searches provide the least amount of information but will furnish you with the inmate’s register number, age, race, sex, and release date. If the inmate is still incarcerated, a link to the federal prison provides more information about the facility.
State searches offer the same information as federal searches. Typically, you can also view data on criminal history, find a mug shot, see a visitation schedule, and find specific features, such as scars or tattoos along with height and weight.
To locate sex offenders, visit the Family Watchdog National Sex Offender Registry.
If you are unsure whether the charge was for a federal or state crime, run the name on both databases.
If you have questions or concerns regarding a prisoner’s status or release date, contact the prison by phone or email to obtain more information.
Other websites offer online inmate database searches but may charge a fee.