When your spouse, family member or friend has been incarcerated, it can often be a challenge to determine the facility they have been sent to. It is so important to maintain contact with your inmate to provide them with support – emotionally and financially – and increase their chances of successful rehabilitation. Before you can support an inmate, you’ll need to determine their location.
A Starting Point
The best first step to locating your inmate is to know the system they are in. Are they in a state prison? Perhaps they have been sentenced to serve time in a federal institution? In some cases, the inmate may spend their incarceration period in a county jail. Knowing where to begin your search is extremely helpful. Let’s review the different systems:
Federal Prison – Inmates who are:
- Convicted of Federal felony-level offenses
- Charged with Federal felony-level offenses and awaiting trial
- Charged and/or convicted of state felony-level offenses in Washington D.C.
State Prison – Inmates who are:
- Charged and/or Convicted of state felony-level offenses
- Convicted of misdemeanor-level offenses that carry sentences exceeding one to two years
Local/County Jail – Inmates who are:
- Convicted of misdemeanor-level offenses with terms shorter than one to two years
- Being detained before and during trail prior to transfer to a prison system
Importance of Inmate Location
Why is it important to know how to locate your incarcerated loved one quickly? When an inmate is sentenced and transferred to a prison system from a local jail, or if it is determined that they should be transferred to a different facility within their system, you will not be automatically informed where they have been sent. And, the inmate will not be able to call you from prison to tell you about their transfer if the phone system is different from the facility they were at previously.
There are many companies that provide phone services to prisons (Securus, Global Tel Link, IC Solutions, Paytel) and they all charge the maximum allowable rate, currently $0.25/minute. PrisonConnect can help you significantly lower your rates!
If you can quickly determine the inmate’s location, you will be able to determine the phone system used in that facility and access instructions for the inmate’s commissary account. Upon initial arrival at the new facility, your inmate won’t be able to contact you until the phone and/or commissary account is set up. He/she won’t be able to make phone calls, and can’t even send a letter without being able to purchase the items needed from the store (paper, pen, stamped envelopes, etc.)
Resources for Searching
Once you’ve determined the system in which your inmate is currently incarcerated, you can begin your search. Federal, state and county facilities differ in the ways you can locate inmates. Each one has its own identification system. Some have websites with search capabilities and some do not.
When an inmate is incarcerated within the Federal prison system, there is one specific website you can use to locate them. In order to search for them, you will need their name and/or their Bureau of Prisons (BOP) identification number. However, if your inmate is in the State prison system, there is a separate website for each state. A quick internet search such as “(name of state) inmate locator” should help you to find the correct site for the state in which the inmate is housed. The State Prison system uses a state ID number for identification, rather than a BOP number. You can locate an inmate using the name and/or ID number.
Local County Jails can be the most challenging of all. Depending upon the size of the county, they may or may not even have a website for inmate searches. The smaller the county, the less likely you are to find a locator site. In the absence of a website, you can call the facility directly and ask for the inmate number. For those counties that do have a site, typically all that is needed is a name.
Keeping in touch with your incarcerated loved one is so important. Being informed about how to locate them quickly is vital to keep your connection and to help support them through their time away. We hope that this article can provide assistance to help make this process less complicated for you!