Need to locate an inmate? Here’s everything you need to know.

When you have a loved one locked up in any prison or jail, your entire motive is to find out where they are, what they are in there for, and find vital information. You can either be looking for identifying information about the inmate or you can be looking for information on her or his charges they have been charged and convicted with.

Most of the time, this information will be readily available right on the internet, so you can search at your leisure. However, some of this information may not be as readily available, so you will need to contact the facility where the inmate is currently serving their time.

To make this easier for you to understand and figure out, we are going to break down a bit further.

How to Know Where to Look?

The first thing is first, you need to know what agency is responsible for overseeing that facility. If you know what agency is responsible for that facility it will make the job of finding the inmate that much easier.

City Jails

City Jails are typically operated by that cities police department. So, the best thing to do is get in touch with the police department and see if they are the agency that oversees that certain facility.

County Jails

County Jails are typically operated by that counties sheriff’s office. If the inmate is in county jail, it is certain that the counties sheriff’s office is the agency responsible for the facility.

State Prisons

State prisons are typically operated by that states department of corrections. If the inmate is in state prison, it is best to contact that states department of corrections with questions, comments, and concerns.

Federal Prisons

Federal prisons in the United States are operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. If an inmate is in a federal prison no matter what state they are in, they are in the custody of the Federal Burau of Prisons.

Main Inmate Locators

Now, that we have discussed what agency is responsible for what type of prison or jail. We can officially talk about where you can find these inmate locators.

Please keep in mind that not every agency will have their inmate locator on the web for you to search at your leisure.

City Jails

County and city jails will house inmates for short-term. Typically, county and city jails will only keep an inmate for under two years.

Now, you will need to know that most of the city jails does not have a database of all inmates. This means you will need to locate the city jail number and call them to find out the information you are looking for. It is best to have at least the inmate’s full name when you contact the city jail, so they can help you as quickly as possible.

County Jails

Now, on the other hand, the county jails are always typically managed and operated under the counties sheriff’s office. This means, if you have any questions regarding the county jail, you should direct your questions to the counties sheriff’s office.

The easiest way to find the inmate locator for a county jail is put in the counties name along with inmate locator in the search bar. It should bring you up to the sheriff’s official website.

State Prisons

What is good for you is that every states department of corrections keeps its database on their official website. So, you can search that database 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These databases are typically updated either hour, every few hours, or at a set time, which is typically listed on the database itself.

To successfully search through the database, you should know the following pieces of information about the inmate:

  • First & Last Name
  • Identification Number
  • Ethnicity
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Race

If you know for a fact, the inmate is in state prison and you are not able to locate them, try just searching by one or two pieces of information. Always remember the databases are operated by humans and sometimes there can be mistakes in them, which may cause you to not get the correct search results you are looking for.

Federal Prisons

If the inmate you are looking for is sitting in federal prison, you are going to have the best time of your life finding their information because the Federal Bureau of Prisons only has one database for all 102 prisons. This database can easily be searched by using the following key pieces of information:

  • Age
  • BOP Number
  • First Name
  • Middle Name
  • Last Name
  • Sex
  • Race
  • FBI Number
  • INS Number
  • DCDC Number


Many jails and prisons throughout the United States take advantage of this awesome tool known as the VINELink.

VINELink was made for victims, but even people who want to find out some information on inmates or keep track of their loved ones use this tool as well. You can opt-in to get real-time alerts. You can have VINELink either send you a quick text message, call you, or send you a quick email when something new happens with the inmate.

You will need to have the inmate’s first and last name in order to use VINELink. You will need to keep in mind that not all jails and prison within the United States use VINELink. You will need to contact the facility to ask them if they use it or not.

There’s No Database What Information Do I Need When Calling?

We have talked a little bit about this above, but if you end up having to call the facility, you want to know the information you need to ensure they can easily locate who you are looking for.

You should always have the following pieces of information handy when contacting the facility:

  • Inmate Name
  • Age
  • Date of Birth
  • Race

If you are calling for a city jail, if you know their booking date or a range of dates, that would be of great help too. Also, if you have an inmate number, that could help too. But do not stress, if you do not have their inmate number because they should be able to locate them by their name and give you the inmate number once officially located for an easier search next time.