How to Find Public Records of San Quentin Ex-Inmates

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San Quentin State Prison, located just outside of San Francisco, California, traces its history way back to 1864. From its establishment during the Gold Rush to its inclusion in songs by artists like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, the facility's legacy has been equal parts dynamic, troubled and enduring. Under the California Public Records Act, which maintains the records curated by the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, public records are made available for easy perusal. If you're looking for a bit of San Quentin inmate history, get ready to dive in, either online or by mail.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

The CDCR Inmate Locator is the most accessible way to look up San Quentin records, but it's not your only option.

Official San Quentin Inmate Search

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation offers the online Inmate Locator for free public access at inmatelocator.cdcr.ca.gov. Once you've navigated to that page in your browser, digging through the info is a pretty straightforward process:

  1. Read the disclaimer provided by the CDCR and click the agree button to get started.
  2. Enter the info in the blank fields as prompted. Here, you can enter the inmate number or, if you don't have that information, a last name. You'll need one or the other. Adding a first and middle name helps narrow your search, but neither is a requirement.
  3. Click the search button to access the inmate search results.
  4. Browse the list of potential matches on the inmate search results page by scrolling down or, if there's more than one page of names, click next page. Next to each inmate's name, you'll see info including their CDCR number, current age, admission date and current location.
  5. Click the inmate's name for further details. Here, you'll find a link that provides their current location, the month and year they'll become eligible for parole and additional parole eligibility information. In the additional information section, you may find further details, such as contact info for victims who want to provide input for parole reviews.

More Online Options

While the CDCR's Inmate Locator arguably offers the quickest and easiest method for a San Quentin State Prison lookup, it's not the end of the line. Third-party sites – those not affiliated with the state – offer online alternatives to the Inmate Locator. While broader in scope than the CDCR's tool, they may offer more detailed San Quentin records, including San Quentin mugshots, in some cases. Some options include:

  • RecordsFinder.com: A first and last name search scans federal, state, county and municipal databases. Once you get  results, you can filter them by age and location, in this case, California. The site charges a fee of around $3.98 to access a full inmate records report, which includes the inmate number, mug shot, arrest and warrant records, physical description, cellmates, location, address history, sentencing records and more. 
  • Instant Checkmate: Instant Checkmate's Federal and State Prison Inmate Search, like RecordsFinder, starts with a first name, last name and state search. The draw of Instant Checkmate is that, in addition to criminal records, info such as relatives, social media and dating profiles, traffic violations and financial records are offered, if available. As of 2019, Instant Checkmate costs $22.86 to use for one month, but offers a five-day trial for $1.
  • Ancestry.com: For the more history-oriented search, Ancestry.com offers in-depth search parameters, including name, keywords, prisoner number, race, record dates, past residences and location of the crime. To access the site's collection of 15 billion U.S. records – including everything from criminal records to wills to vintage ships' logs – you'll need to pony up $19.99 for a month or go for the 14-day free trial.

Mail-in Records Request

If your online searches come up dry in both the state and commercial realms, there's always a reliable old-school option: Write a letter to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In your letter – formally called a Public Record Act Request – include your name and contact information as well as the name, date of birth and CDCR number of the San Quentin inmate. Specify the exact scope of your request and pop it in the mail to:

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, PRA Administrators, 1515 S. Street, Suite 314, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001

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About the Author

As a freelance writer and small business owner with a decade of experience, Dan has contributed legal- and finance-oriented content to diverse sources including Chron, Fortune, Zacks.com, Motley Fool and MSN Money, among others.

Photo Credits

  • Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images