If you are looking to find someone in jail, you have a few options. If you’re not sure where to start, trying to find an inmate may feel overwhelming. So before you start Google searching every jail in your area, let’s walk through the basics.
Do you know the person’s name, address, or date-of-birth?
Maybe you know the county, city, or state where they committed the crime. Or even when and where their hearing was held. Obtaining as much basic information as possible will simplify the process.
First, we’ll walk through how to find out if someone is currently in jail. As well as the best way to find which jail or federal prison they’re in.
There are several reasons why you might need to find out if someone is in jail. Oftentimes, people know someone who was arrested and they want to know if they are still incarcerated.
Other times, families that move to a new area want to do research on convicted sex offenders. And sometimes, family members are in search of relatives they have not heard from in a while.
In any case, finding out if someone is in jail starts with knowing where the crime took place.
Even if you do not have the name of the criminal, you can quickly narrow down your search if you know which jurisdiction to focus on.
Using an Inmate Locator
To find someone in jail, you can start with State Department of Corrections.
If you go to the state’s web page, you will be able to find a phone number to contact. You’ll also find resources like Sex Offender Registry, Offender Contact information, and Offender Visitation forms.
Many states will also have a search feature. Some state websites will refer to this as an Offender Database Search or an Inmate Search.
If you are unsure where to look for this feature, simply Google the state followed by “department of corrections inmate search.”
It’ll be in one of the top search results.
Some counties do not have an online search feature, so you may have to call. If the jail you call is not where the inmate is located, try contacting nearby jails.
If the person you’re looking for was recently arrested, their information may not be in the system yet.
You can always check every week or two. But typically it’s harder to find their information because arrestees are held in the county jail until they have a trial and are released. Or transferred to a more permanent location.
However, if the person you are searching for has been in jail longer than a month, you can use a few other resources to find out where they are located.
Once you have determined someone is in jail, you can start your search. If you know the jurisdiction where they were arrested, you can call the jail.
The Department of Corrections will be able to release public information to you about the person. Like their name, age, birthday, and gender. However, there are other ways to find someone in jail for free if you have limited information about them.
How to Find Someone In Jail with VINELink Inmate Lookup
The best way to find someone in jail for free is VINELink (Victim Information and Notification Everyday.)
A victim notification network that “provides the most reliable information for custody status changes and criminal case information.”
On the site’s homepage, select the state where you want to search. Navigate to the “Find an Offender” button, where you will be prompted to type in the Offender ID number. Or – if you don’t know it – the inmate’s first and last name.
You can also select “Advanced Search” to add the inmate’s facility name, date of birth, and age range.
When you find who you are looking for, you will see their inmate/offender ID, date of birth, race, gender, custody status, location, and scheduled release date. Anyone interested in the status of an inmate can register to be notified when the inmate is released or transferred.
Notification is done by phone or e-mail.
Note: Vinelink does not provide information on federal prisons. Only local jails and state prisons. Vinelink is updated every day.
Finding someone in federal prison is a lot like finding someone in jail. The best way to locate information on a federal prisoner for free is to go to the Bureau of Federal Prisons website at www.bop.gov.
Then, go to the inmate locator tab. You can search by inmate number or name.
A list of results will appear with the inmates’ names, ID number, age, sex, race, and release date, or prison location. If you select the prison’s name, it will take you to that location’s website where you can find additional details.
Of course, if you know which jail or prison the inmate is located at, you can pull up its website and do a search. At least then you’ll know if the offender is still in custody.
Not all jails or prisons have this information online. In that case, simply call the jail or prison and ask them to provide the inmate’s status.
Vinelink and the BOP website are by far the best resources to find someone in jail for free. Their sites are constantly updated and contain the most information on inmates nationwide.
Another great free website is www.inmatesplus.com.
Click on the state where you want to search and then two options appear. One option is a search for the state prison. The second option is to search by county jail.
Inmates Plus is updated daily.
You know of someone who has been in jail or prison, but you’re unsure when they will be released.
You can find an inmate’s release date by calling the state’s Department of Corrections, searching their online database. Or use a resource like VINELink. Although release dates are subject to change based on the inmate’s behavior.
If the inmate is incarcerated in a smaller facility, their release date may not show up on large databases.
If the inmate’s case was followed by the public, sometimes their release will be covered on local news stations. To learn more about this process, check out our step-by-step guide on How To Find An Inmate’s Release Date.