The federal government, states, and counties maintain records on people serving time in jail and prisons. Relatives, friends or members of the public can easily search these records to find people who are either currently in jail or who served time in the past and have been released. The federal government and many states maintain these databases online and allow people to search them for free over the Internet. Some states and counties do not have an online database system and interested parties need to call the relevant department instead.
Find out if the incarcerated person is in a federal prison, a state prison or county jail. Federal offenders are held in a federal prison; state offenders are held in a state prison. Counties run jails, which are usually used to hold people who have committed minor crimes.
Go to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website to locate a federal inmate. The search page offers you the option to search by ID number or by the person's first and last name. If searching by name, a first and last name are required. You can add other information such as race, sex or age to narrow your search.
Go to the state's Department of Corrections website to locate a state inmate. Search for an "Inmate Locator" on the website for entering information. If the state does not have an online database, call the department instead. They will be able to give you some information.
Go to the county's Department of Corrections website to locate a local inmate. Counties may not have a searchable online database and you will need to call or write to them for information.
Danielle Cort has been a freelance writer since 2008, specializing in psychology, health, education and parenting. She has published articles in "Family" magazine. Before becoming a freelance writer, Cort worked in the public policy research sector, conducting research, creating surveys and budgets. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in social psychology from the University of Massachusetts.