Locate an Inmate: They took him from jail to prison and now I can’t find him

At least while he was in county jail you knew exactly where he was. Last week they did a “state prison run” and you have no idea where he ended up. You haven’t heard from him, and the waiting and worrying can be extremely stressful, but understanding the “prison run” process will help you take it in stride.

Prison run: A prison run is the term used for transporting prisoners from county jails to the state prison system. Most jails don’t let the inmate know exactly when he is going. This prevents him from calling somebody on the outside and setting up an interception and escape. Instead, they typically wake up the inmates in the middle and tell them to grab their gear and go.

Go where? Once he leaves county jail, he is most likely going to start out in a reception facility. These facilities are housed in state prisons and are designed to process the inmate into the state system. There is usually a designated POD for reception inmates. These areas don’t typically have telephones, visiting areas, etc. This is why you haven’t heard from him yet. He will also be worried that you don’t know where he is. Some reception facilities do allow inmates to write and receive letters and will provide a few pieces of paper and a few stamped envelopes so he can let people know where he is. Others do not and it becomes a waiting game for friends and family.

What will happen? While he is in the reception facility he will be tested for skills and questioned about his education, work history, substance abuse, mental health needs and anything else that is important to his placement. They’ll also investigate gang affiliation. It is counter-productive for prisons to house rival gang members in the same cells or PODS, so reception will make note of any gang affiliation to prevent that from occurring.

Then what? After he has been processed, and remember that hundreds of inmates are being processed at the same time, it can take several days or several weeks to complete the process, and he will then be sent to his “home prison.” This is the prison they have selected where he will do his time. He may or may not stay for the duration of his sentence, but for now it is where he will live.

How long does it take? That depends on the state, how many inmates are being processed and the availability of beds in the prison they have chosen for him. Once he gets on the prison van from county jail it usually will take anywhere from two weeks to a month to hear from him.

Final thoughts:  If your guy has been sentenced to prison and he suddenly stops calling from the county jail, chances are he is on his way to prison. One way to find out is to call the jail and ask if he is still there. They will tell you if he has left their system. They might not say why he left, but if he is gone, and you know he was sentenced to prison, you can safely assume he is on his way.

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writes about inmates, jails, prisons, courts and the lives of people who live and work within the United States Criminal Justice System. His mission can be summed up in a single word; transparency.