If you're among the 45% of Americans who are close to someone behind bars, you likely want to find them within the US incarceration system. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to navigate prison records to find an inmate effectively.
Luckily, online tools like Jail Exchange can make your inmate search easier after a loved one was arrested. Read on to learn how to find recent arrests by using the inmate search database.
Step 1: Gather Basic Information
It's easier to find an inmate when you have their basic information immediately handy. You can use Jail Exchange to find someone if all you know is their name, but the search will be simpler when you know more about them.
Relatives and friends searching for a loved one may have details like their birthday, age, and past residences. These individuals will be able to easily search and locate the person. They'll also be able to distinguish them from others with the same name.
If you're a distant relative, legal contact, or stranger looking to contact an inmate, you may not have all this information. You'll have a more challenging time searching for the inmate, so you might want to try contacting someone who's privy to this knowledge. You also might want to learn if they belong to a certain ethnicity or have gone by an alias in the past.
Make sure that regardless of who you are, you spell everything correctly when gathering data. If you don't know the appropriate spelling of an inmate's name, there's almost no way you'll find them. This is because even top sites like Jail Exchange rely on the person's full name to scour prison databases and inmate records.
What If You Can't Find the Information?
Some people work for an NGO that serves to help inmates and homeless people. If this describes you, you may have trouble finding the person's details. Some homeless individuals won't have any family members who can give you personal details.
In these cases, you may need to do a blind search. Figure out where they were arrested and go to that local police station. They might not be able to give you as many details as you want, but they can help guide you into an easier search.
Step 2: Know Where to Look
Jail Exchange is the top website for those looking for inmate records. This is because our site scours all databases on the web to get you the most accurate, up-to-date information. You can locate anyone by looking up their name regardless of where they are incarcerated.
To get started, figure out whether you're looking for someone in a city/county jail, state prison, or federal penitentiary. If you're unsure of this information, you can use all three functions to search for the inmate. One of them will turn up a result, which is a surefire way to know where they're being held.
City and county jails are smaller than prisons. They're the locations where inmates are held while they wait for trials for minor crimes. Most people in these venues will be non-violent offenders accused of misdemeanors.
These jails may also hold those who have been convicted of non-violent crimes. If the inmate was sentenced to one year or less, they likely will be in a county jail. If the sentence was greater than one year, they probably are in a state or federal prison.
If you suspect your loved one is in a city or county jail, select the state you think they're in. You'll then be directed to a map of that state that shows various counties. Click on the general location where you're looking to find an inmate.
Those who know the jail name can also search for any jail within the state. This makes it even easier to find the person you're looking for.
State prisons are made for those convicted of crimes for the state. They host both violent and nonviolent offenders.
Some that host those convicted of misdemeanors and non-violent crimes will be held in minimum security prisons. However, those who have been convicted of violent offenses will often be held in facilities with medium or maximum security.
Go to our inmate search page and hit the button labeled "select a state." Choose the state that you think they're in to get a list of prison facilities there.
At this point, you can click the "inmate search" button at the top of the page. Click the provided link to see what prison they're housed in. You can then get their contact information so you can write to them or call the correctional facility.
Sometimes, you'll find that the inmate is no longer incarcerated.
This is great news because they may be on parole or probation. They also may have been discharged. In either of these scenarios, the website will tell you what has happened so that you can search for them outside of prison and get in touch.
If you search our database and discover that your loved one is in a federal facility, you can use the Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator to find them. This tool was specifically set up by the federal prison system to help family members locate inmates.
Type their name into the database. You'll get specific information on when they were incarcerated in addition to learning where they're being held. This will help you ensure that you've found the right person so you don't accidentally locate someone with the same name.
You also will learn the person's projected release date. This will let you know when you can expect to see them on the outside again. Until then, though, you'll know where to visit them in prison.
There are other specialized types of prison facilities where you may find a loved one detained. These include:
- US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Military Prisons and Jails (MIL)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
- Enemy Combatant High-Value Detainees (HVD)
You can find someone here in the same way that you can locate a normal federal prison inmate. Click on the type of prison they're in on the Jail Exchange website and go to the state where you suspect they're held. You'll see a list of prisons within that state that meet the initially selected category.
Step 3: Browse the Prison
Once you find the facility where your loved one is being held, you can then search for their whereabouts more easily. Our website will tell you the precise address of the jail as well as its telephone number. Calling this number will not connect you with your loved one, but it will allow you to talk to a jail employee about the facility.
You will be able to write to the inmate directly after looking at the website. This is because we'll offer you the mailing address for people incarcerated there. Usually, that will be the address of the prison (as shown on Google Maps) with the inmate's first and last name in the address line.
If you're looking for additional information, you can go to the prison website itself.
The next steps will depend on what the website looks like. Every facility has its own webpage with a unique navigation system. It should be fairly straightforward.
You can often find which cell blocks and prison areas people are incarcerated in. Even if you can't, the website should offer information about visiting hours. In-person visits will almost always need to be arranged in advance.
You also will likely learn what you can mail to inmates (such as letters, packages, and paperwork).
Most jails also let loved ones on the outside wire money to inmates. They can use this in the commissary to buy food, electronic devices like radios, stationery, and personal items. You can learn the protocol for doing so on most websites.
Step 4: Follow All Protocols
It's important that you follow all protocols listed on the website. For example, if you're an in-person visitor, you'll need to arrive at the facility early and check in. You'll need to follow every instruction given to you by the correctional workers, too.
If you send them a parcel from an unauthorized vendor, you may also be in violation of protocol. You must only send them approved items from vendors like Amazon, too.
The same applies if you send them a letter with suspicious contents. Remember that all mail will be opened before it reaches the incarcerated recipient.
If you fail to abide by protocol, you may be banned from visiting or even contacting the inmate down the line. This is true even if the violation was unintentional, so be thorough when understanding the protocol.
Beyond How to Find Recent Arrests
Now that you know how to find recent arrests and locate a loved one's inmate records, it's time to get started.
Jail Exchange is committed to providing you with the top all-in-one prison search database on the web. We offer in-depth information on nearly every detention facility in the US regardless of location and jurisdiction.
Contact us with any remaining questions you have about our database, specific facilities, and how we can help you navigate the ins and outs of prison websites.