How to Find Inmates in Prison

••• jailhouse window image by Stephen Orsillo from

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Finding someone in jail is done fairly easily by using the Internet. All 50 states must follow the "Freedom of Information Act," which allows for access to public records online or during business hours at a local courthouse. This includes inmate information. When someone is incarcerated, the information pertaining to the arrest and conviction is available at no cost. Most courthouses transfers public records to online databases. The majority of prisons make detainee information available on their own websites, too.

A list of charges are available on the inmate you're looking for.
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Find out what kind of facility houses the inmate you seek. It could be county, state or federal. If you don't know for sure, you should still be able to find the inmate.

Determine the proper spelling of the inmate's first and last name, as well as their middle name or middle initial.

Details on the prisoner can help narrow your search.
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Find out the birth date of the inmate. If the name is a common one, it may come up more than once during your search. The birth date can help you pinpoint the person you are looking for.

Visit your local courthouse and go to the clerk. If the arrested was made locally, the clerk will have the name of the prison where the inmate was transferred.

Ask the clerk for any hearing notes if prison information isn't yet available. The name of the inmate's attorney will be on these notes. Contact the attorney and ask if they can tell you where the prisoner was transported.

If the inmate was incarcerated in the past, that information will also come up.
••• handcuffs image by Jorge Casais from

Use "prisoner" search engines on the Internet. Type the proper spelling of the inmate's name into the search engine. If more than one name comes up, double check the birthday or date of arrest to pinpoint the correct person.

Write the Federal Bureau of Prisons if you're coming up short in your search. You can reach their central office by writing, calling or sending an e-mail:

Western Regional Office

Federal Bureau of Prisons

7338 Shoreline Drive

Stockton, California 95219




  • Despite the fact the "Freedom Of Information Act" exists, some agencies or courthouses may still deny you information. Politely explain that it is public information you seek and that the law allows you to access it. If they still refuse to give you anything, you can file an official request.


  • If you know who the arresting agency is, you can contact them for information. People arrested are typically housed locally until court proceedings begin.



About the Author

Joleene DesRosiers Moody has written professionally since 2001 for television and print. Her freelance work is featured in "Absolutely Business" magazine. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in radio and television production from Onondaga Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in theater and fine arts from Niagara University.

Photo Credits

  • jailhouse window image by Stephen Orsillo from