What is an inmate search?
An inmate search allows you to search the past and current prison population to find out if someone has ever been in prison in the past or if they are currently in prison now. The two searches are usually carried out for very different reasons and by very different groups of people. An inmate is anyone who is being detained in a county, state or federal prison, and often includes those who are prison inmates while waiting for their trial to commence. The Department of Corrections is the public body that manages the general prison population, though state and county jails are then run on a local level, while jail inmates in a federal prison are an entirely separate group. Details of everyone who has been in prison since around 1982 are available online, though records are kept on paper from before that date if you need to carry out an inmate search further in the past.
The kind of search you will need to carry out might change depending on whether you are trying to find out if someone was in jail at some point in the past or if they are currently part of the prison population. Both searches will return certain key pieces of information, such as the name, address and date of birth of the prison inmates, while there may also be further details about the crime they committed or are charged with, depending on which court the case was heard and what kind of jail they are currently being held in. Rules can vary from state to state about what inmate information is available to the general public carrying out a prisoner search. If the prisoner is only awaiting trial, the information can be quite vague; this is to ensure that the upcoming trial is not prejudiced by making all the pertinent details available to the public beforehand.
If someone is on parole or probation, or they have been bailed to appear in court at a later date, they might not show up in some prison inmate searches, depending on how individual states record their prisoner population. After all, these people are not actually current inmates but may have been released early for good behaviour or be awaiting trial for a minor offence – in the same position as many people who remain inmates. To add to the confusion, some states do include these kinds of prisoners in their Department of Corrections inmate search and some don’t, so make sure you check the criteria in the area where you are searching before beginning, to better understand the search results you obtain.
Don’t forget that just because someone appears in the results of an inmate search, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have ever been found guilty of a criminal offence. They may have been in jail while awaiting trial or perhaps they were initially found guilty and freed upon appeal, but had served some of their sentence in the meantime. If the person you are searching for is listed in the past or current prison population, you should use this as a starting point to do more research into their story.
Why carry out an inmate search?
There are two groups of people who might wish to find an inmate currently in the US population; law enforcement professionals and members of the public. Both have access to these kinds of records, but the databases available to the public are different from those used by police officers. The amount of inmate information available to the two groups is different too, as law enforcement professionals are able to see more personal details and more legal and police documents associated with the crime, investigation, trial and conviction.
Police officers will use tools like the Department of Corrections inmate search to find out if someone they want to speak to regarding their own investigation is currently in prison, or has perhaps recently been released. When someone is released on parole they have to provide an address where they will be staying as part of the conditions of their release. This can make it much easier for police and other law enforcement agencies to track down wanted criminals and those with outstanding arrest warrants. Many jail inmates are not first time offenders, and there is a good chance that they may be wanted by police in other areas of the state or country.
The main reason that a member of the public might want to carry out an inmate search is to check up on someone that they know, to find out if they have ever been in jail in the past. This could be an employer checking that someone has not lied on their appliaction about being a convicted criminal or someone wanting to know more details about a new partner. Women, in particular, might carry out this kind of prison inmate search if they are considering moving a new boyfriend into the family home, and want to be absolutely sure they know everything about his past – especially if they have a young family and want to be sure he has no convictions for crimes against children.
Sometimes members of the public might want to know if someone is currently one of the thousands of inmates in prison. Perhaps they are trying to track down a family member or someone they know or work with has apparently gone missing. After they have exhausted other lines of enquiry, an online search using an inmate locator can sometimes produce unexpected results! Even if the family member or friend is no longer in prison, the information you can get as the result of carrying out an inmate search could be a valuable clue in tracking them down.
How to carry out an inmate search
In order to carry out an inmate search, you will need to know some basic personal details about the person you are looking for, such as their full mame and their date of birth. It is helpful to know which kind of prison they are being kept in, as this will help you narrow down the search. Otherwise, you might waste time searching through county jail and state prisons when they are actually being held in a federal facility. Each state has different online sites to allow you to search their prison population, though there are some companies that will carry out the search for you, for a fee, if you are unsure in which state you need to carry out your prison inmate search. Other online facilities have compiled all the different state search pages in one place, which makes it much easier to carry out multiple prisoner searches without paying an extortionate fee. Most of these sites are very user-friendly, and they prompt you to enter the required information at each step in the process. You can still carry out a search the old-fashioned way by heading down to your local courthouse. Details of the original trial will still be kept on file there along with information about which jail prison inmates were sent to after being found guilty.
Because the prison system in the US is divided into different types of jails within the different states, making sure you carry out a comprehensive jail inmate search is not always an easy task. Sometimes you will get no results from your search because the person you are looking for has never been in jail; sometimes it will be because you did not have enough information, time or money to carry out the search properly. In some states, certain categories of prisoner are not not included in the prison population, such as those in jail awaiting trial or those who have been released on parole. Although the latter group will come up as past prisoners, if you search on the current inmate information, they may not appear. This can lead to confusing search results, with people feeling confident their partner or employee is who they say they are, when actually the information they need is in a different state or a different type of jail. All these problems can be avoided by using national search engines, which carry out the search for you based on the information you provide. Unfortunately, most of these charge a fee which is still applicable even if the search for inmates finds no hit on the name you are looking for.