Regardless of the reason why an individual wishes to locate an inmate, finding them in the prison system can be a painstaking task. But some states make the task easier and less time consuming, which is the case with the state of Tennessee.
The TN Felony Offender Information application makes finding state prison inmates relatively easy, and it offers more than one way to track down a particular inmate in the state. Having the inmate identification number makes it a snap, but even without the number, it is fairly straightforward.
That doesn't mean that questions won't arise, however, since some inmates in Tennessee are incarcerated in county-run jails rather than in state prisons. Others are located in federal prison systems within the state.
Tennessee Correctional Facilities: State Prisons
Before attempting to locate someone serving time in jail or prison, it's necessary to have basic information about them and where they are being held. The types of facilities in which inmates are being held can differ because management systems are very different.
The state of Tennessee has several types of facilities in which inmates are housed, and state prisons are one of them. The state's prisons house some 30,000 inmates, and they are divided into three regions:
- East Tennessee Region.
- Middle Tennessee Region.
- West Tennessee Region.
Of the 14 state prisons in Tennessee, 10 of them are run by the Tennessee Department of Correction. They are:
East Tennessee Region
Middle Tennessee Region
West Tennessee Region
The remaining four prisons are privately owned by CoreCivic. They are:
Tennessee Correctional Facilities: County Jails
Local county jails in Tennessee are facilities owned and operated by towns and counties themselves. They serve to hold defendants awaiting trial on criminal charges, as well as inmates serving short sentences, usually for misdemeanor offenses.
Generally, state prison facilities are only for those persons convicted of felony crimes, defined as crimes with sentences of a year or more in prison.
Tennessee has a total of 237 jails and prisons, serving a population of 6,597,381 people in an area of 41,225 square miles. Misdemeanors are crimes with a maximum jail term of less than a year, and these offenders are usually kept in county jails for their entire term.
Federal Prisons in Tennessee
Some Tennessee inmates are held in federal prisons run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The primary federal prison in Tennessee is FCI Memphis, a medium security federal correctional institution. It currently houses a total of 1,289 male inmates, including those at an adjacent minimum security satellite camp and a detention center.
Nashville also has a federal Residential Reentry Management (RRM) field office, which houses 14,374 total federal inmates. These include: 24 juveniles, 6,153 inmates in home confinements, 535 in short-term jails, 86 long-term boarders and 7,577 in the Residential Reentry Center program.
Free Databases for Inmate Searches
Searching for an inmate does not have to be either challenging or expensive, although it may seem that way to those who do not understand the procedure.
While a variety of private companies offer to do the work for a fee, it pays to first get an overview of the databases available to the public online and how to use them. It is generally a better idea to refuse to pay for a service that is provided free of charge to the public.
Key Information to Locate Inmates
The key to a successful search for an inmate is to first gather a minimum amount of information about them and their case. The information that is essential is the inmate's full name and the state in which they are serving time. Some databases permit an alias search, but most require a full first and last name.
Don't use a middle name on the first search because it may not be listed. If the inmate's name is a common one, it helps to have a middle name or date of birth to use to filter out results. Sometimes it is possible to find images of the inmate provided on the database.
It may be necessary to use different search engines for different types of correctional facilities in Tennessee, such as state prisons, county jails and federal facilities. But sometimes there is one website that has all the necessary searchable jail databases for a state.
Tennessee Department of Corrections Website FOIL
Anyone attempting to locate an inmate in a Tennessee state prison can do so online quite easily by visiting the Tennessee Department of Corrections website's search features. This website offers a lot of useful information, including a complete list of state prisons and a location map.
The felony offender search is the place to start unless the inmate is known to have been convicted of a lesser crime. It lists all persons currently being held in a state prison who have been convicted of a felony.
Required Tennessee Prison Inmate Information
To access the felony offender search, click on Felony Offender Information Lookup (FOIL). This is the last item on the column on the left side of the page, regarding state prisons.
The search is easy to perform as long as the person searching has either the offender's name, their Tennessee Department of Corrections prisoner number (TDOC), or their Social Security number.
To search with an alias, check the "alias" option just above the name search. To search by number, use the number search feature. There is also an option to identify the inmate by race.
Matching Info to Inmate
Possible matches appear on the FOIL search screen after the search button is pressed. Note that even for an alias search, the inmate results appear in alphabetical order by the offender's TDOC record name. There is a space in the results for a photo of the inmate, as well as their birth date.
In some cases, rather than a photo of the inmate, a message appears saying that no photo is available. There is also a column that notes whether the prisoner is currently in custody or not – active or inactive status.
Click on the prisoner identification number in the left-hand column of the search results to get more details about the inmate, including:
- Known aliases.
- Date of birth.
- Hair color.
- Eye color.
Information Provided in FOIL
FOIL search results provide some or all of the following information about the inmate's sentence:
- Supervision status.
- Combined sentence length.
- Date the sentence began.
- Release eligibility date.
- Custody level.
- Parole hearing date.
- Parole release date.
Once an inmate is located using FOIL, the Department of Corrections website suggests that the inmate's status information be confirmed with the jurisdiction. In addition to inmate location services, FOIL also provides a database of sex or meth offenders, and victim advocate programs.
Further Information About FOIL
Anyone with questions about the information or how to use the search engine can contact the Tennessee Department of Correction at 320 6th Avenue North, 2nd Floor, Rachel Jackson Building, Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0465; by phone at 615-253-8069; and by email at TDOC.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Locating an Inmate in County Jail
Search free for inmates incarcerated in Tennessee county jails by using the search engine at county jail inmate search.com. This is one of the few free searches available on the internet for inmates incarcerated in county jails in the state. The jails that can be searched are listed on the site, and more are added when possible.
To use this inmate search, enter the first and last name of the inmate. Available information includes offense reports, list of charges filed, arresting agency and requirements necessary for release.
Using the County Jail Website Search
Alternatively, it is possible to find someone in custody by visiting a county jail's website or by calling the jail's contact numbers. Visit the website of County Office.com and click on the county where the inmate is incarcerated to obtain a list of facilities and contact information including address, phone number and website.
For example, if the user clicks on "Anderson County," they will get this contact information:
- Name: Anderson County Detention Facility
Address: 308 Public Safety Lane, Clinton, Tennessee, 37716
- Fax: 865-457-5395
- Website: tnacso.net
Under the heading "Anderson County Detention Facility Services," they will also be directed to a search engine for inmates located in that facility. This is provided under "Related Public Records Searches." In addition, the person searching can find information about the facility, its capacity and its security level.
Locating an Inmate in Federal Prison
It is also possible to locate the whereabouts of a federal inmate incarcerated in Tennessee. The website of the Bureau of Prisons provides a searchable database of inmates incarcerated in federal prisons from 1982 to the present. Enter the prisoner's name or any of several different identification numbers to search.
Sometimes the results from the Federal Bureau of Prisons search will include the criminal records of individuals who were at one time in BOP custody, but never served a federal sentence of incarceration. For example, this can happen when a person:
- Was detained before trial but criminal charges were dismissed.
- Was held by the BOP as a material witness.
- Was held by the BOP for civil contempt.
Information for Inmates Released Before 1982
Note that the BOP gets many information requests for inmates released before 1982, but not all of these have been keyed into the BOP's inmate management system. If this information is needed, it may be held by the National Archives Records Administration (NARA), not the BOP.
Therefore, users seeking such information might best inquire at NARA and provide the following information in their request:
- Inmate name (including middle name/initial).
- Date of birth or approximate age at time of incarceration.
Due to the recent First Step Act legislation, federal sentences are being reviewed and recalculated to address pending Federal Time Credit changes. That means that an inmate's release date may not be up to date. Check back periodically to see if any changes have occurred.
- If you find an inmate using FOIL, you should confirm the inmate's status information with the jurisdiction. You can also look up an inmate by race if you do not have the inmate's first or last name. In addition to inmate location services, FOIL also provides a database of sex or meth offenders, as well victim advocate programs.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.