The military prison system can seem huge and complex. However, finding an inmate in the United States military prison system is actually simpler than you might think, since all inmates are listed in the federal Bureau of Prisons database.
The Military Prison System
The military prison system is set up to confine members of the military convicted of crimes (under the Uniform Code of Military of Justice), prisoners of war, people who create a national security risk and unlawful combatants. A military prison holds enemy combatants, prisoners of war, service members convicted of crimes and people who pose a risk of national security. Military prisons generally break down into two types: penal and confinement. Penal prisons are similar to regular prisons. They are meant to punish and possibly rehabilitate the prisoners. Military personnel convicted of crimes go to these prisons. Confinement prisons are used to hold prisoners captured during war. As of the end of 2016, 1,300 military personnel were being held in U.S. military prisons. There are currently 40 detainees who originated as enemy combatants and are being held in Guantanamo.
Locating a Military Prisoner
All military prisoners are listed in a federal prison database which is searchable online. To find the database, go to BOP.gov. Choose the Inmates category, then Find an Inmate. You can search for an inmate by a prisoner's name or Bureau of Prisons number. The database lists current prisoners as well as any released after 1982. If you’re looking for a military prisoner released before 1982, search the National Archives.
How to Visit a Military Prisoner
After you have located the prisoner in the federal prison database and determined where he is currently being held, contact the facility directly for details about visits. Generally, you request to visit the inmate, and the inmate must agree and place you on the approved visitor list. Once a visit is approved and scheduled, be sure to get familiar with the rules of the facility, including what you can bring with you, as well as the clothing items you are permitted to wear while visiting. For example, at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, prisoners' visiting schedules are determined by whether their inmate number is an odd or even number. Further, a visitor to Fort Leavenworth can be denied if a previous relationship with the prisoner cannot be proven. Visitors cannot bring in purses, but can bring in clear change bags with up to $20. As another example, at Marine Corps Camp Pendleton Brig, in California, visitors must go through an electronic search. Visitors cannot wear clothing that is dirty or torn. The only personal items visitors can bring are one small toy and a non-glass baby bottle if a child is part of the visit.
Read More: Definition of Military Arrest
To find a person in a United States military prison, search the Federal Bureau of Prisons database.
- Federal Bureau of Prisons: Find an Inmate
- National Archives: Research Our Records
- Federal Bureau of Prisons: Inmate Locator Information
- US Dept of Justice: Prisoners in 2016
- CNN: Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Fast Facts
- Federal Bureau of Prison: Stay in Touch
- Federal Bureau of Prisons: General Visiting Information
- Federal Bureau of Prisons: Leavenworth Visiting Regulations
- USLegal: Military Prison Law and Legal Definition
- Marines: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendelton
- Guantánamo Docket
Brette Sember, JD is a former attorney and mediator. She is the author of more than 40 books, many of them self-help legal guides. She writes regularly for many outlets about law. Her web site is www.BretteSember.com