A person can find a California inmate’s California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) number by visiting the CDCR Inmate Locator. They can use the inmate’s last name to locate the inmate, but it helps if they have other identifying information, such as the inmate’s first and middle names. A search of the Inmate Locator will show only those adult inmates currently in the custody of the CDCR.
About the Inmate Locator Website
The Inmate Locator website is an online database that is updated daily. The site performs an inmate search of thousands of records. It was designed to help family members and loved ones find the current location of inmates housed in CDCR prisons. A California inmate search will turn up CDCR inmates housed in CDCR prisons, as well as out-of-state correctional facilities (COCF) pursuant to a California placement agreement.
The Inmate Locator website offers driving directions to the correctional facility where the inmate is housed, visiting guidelines, and tips on sending money, packages and messages. If an inmate’s location is not in the database, a person should contact the CDCR’s Identification Unit at 916-445-6713. If the inmate has a common name like John Smith, the person searching should have the inmate’s birthdate. The website may contain errors and omissions – it is not an official record of the CDCR.
Information in the Inmate Locator search is subject to change. The site may not contain information for inmates recently admitted to, or transferred between, prisons for several days. Information for some offenders cannot be disclosed because of safety and security concerns.
Find a Person in Jail
A person who is not in a CDCR or COCF correctional facility might be temporarily housed in a county jail. Typically, the searcher will need the first and last name of the inmate in order to locate them in a county jail. The San Francisco sheriff’s office allows an inmate search with a first and last name, a booking number or an SF number, which is a permanent personal identification number within the San Francisco County Jail system.
Offenders in Youth Facilities
The CDCR’s Division of Juvenile Justice has authority over youthful offenders up to the age of 25. Youthful offenders are typically housed at youth correctional facilities. Most juvenile offenders are committed to county facilities in their home communities. The purpose of being situated in these areas is to be closer to their families and local social services they may need to engage in rehabilitation.
Other Locations for Inmates
An inmate in a California correctional facility could be located in a number of places. They could have been discharged on parole; temporarily placed in a hospital or mental health institution; or transferred to a different California state prison or federal prison. They may also have been deported. An individual searching for an inmate should let the CDCR know about their relationship to the inmate and what concerns the inmate was last experiencing, such as medical or mental health issues.
Contacting Current California Inmates
A person can contact a state prison inmate by mail, email or phone. The CDCR will open and inspect incoming letters for contraband. The sender should put certain information on the envelope:
- Inmate’s full name.
- Inmate’s CDCR number.
- Institution name.
- P.O. Box Housing.
- City in California and Zip code.
A person can find an inmate’s housing assignment by calling the CDCR’s public information officer or the inmate locator at the institution.
Usually, an inmate’s mail address is different from the general institution address. The searcher should look up the address on the CDCR’s List of Adult Institution to find the correct mailing addresses for inmates. Inmates can receive emails and photographs through JPay, a particular digital service that allows electronic communication. Most inmates can initiate outgoing collect calls, which are typically limited to 15 minutes.
When an inmate enters the state of California prison system, they are in the reception and classification process. During this time, they cannot have any family visits, but are allowed phone calls on an emergency basis only as determined by the institution and facility staff. They are not eligible to receive personal packages.
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: CDCR Inmate Locator
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: How to Contact an Inmate
- California.gov: Locate a California Prison Inmate
- San Francisco Sheriff's Office: Find a Person in Jail
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Youth Facilities
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Division of Juvenile Justice
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: List of Adult Institutions
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.