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How to Find Out If Someone is in Jail?

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in CrimeNovember 05, 2020

There are dozens of reasons you might want to find out if someone is in jail. In addition, there are a few different ways you can do it. Let’s start discussing each method to find out if someone is in custody.

how to find someone in jail

Information You’ll Need to Find a Person in Prison

Before you start, you will need some basic information. It’s good to have the inmate’s name and address and their inmate number. If you have their day of birth and gender, even better. Some techniques for finding an incarcerated person require that you also have the city, state, and county where they committed the crime. You might also need to know the specific charges. Knowing which police department first arrested them and what courthouse they were arraigned in is helpful.

Once you gather all the information, you can use one of the following methods to find a person in jail or prison. You also need to remember that there are three types of facilities: federal prisons, state prisons, and county and local jails. Before starting your search, you may need to know where the person is being held. The following information will show you how to find out if a person is in jail or prison.

How to Find Out if Someone is Incarcerated

If the person was just arrested or could not make bail and is awaiting their trial in jail, you can try a few things.

Some county sheriff’s offices and local police stations have websites where they post a roster of all suspects arrested in the prior weeks/months. You can first check there. Sometimes they even offer an online search bar (aka inmate lookup feature) where you can enter a person’s name and see if their name comes up. The search results may show you the crime they were arrested for and the jailhouse where law enforcement is holding them. You may also see dates such as their date of birth, the date of their initial arrest or when they are scheduled to go before a judge for a hearing.

A few have consolidated justice systems depending on the state where the crime was committed. In those cases, the state’s Department of Corrections may also have this information on their official website, or you can call them to inquire where a person is being held and if they are in custody.

Another option for finding someone in jail is to check local newspapers (arrest logs) and online databases. Some online newspapers actually post arrest reports along with mug shots of recently arrested people in the area.

If the person was just arrested, they might not be entered into any system yet. If you know where they were taken, you could contact the local police, county jail, city jail, sheriff’s office, or other detention facilities to ask about new detainees. Some will readily give you information; others will not.

Finding a Person in Prison

If the person was convicted of a crime and is now serving their sentence in either a state or federal prison, you could consult an inmate locator. Most states in the U.S. and the federal government also have government websites that you can visit to search for an inmate. Not all state prisons have these. If the person is held in federal prison, visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at, and you can search there and find federal inmates along with information about sending money, gifts, or visit an inmate. There are specific pages on correctional facility websites just for family members of inmates. Keep in mind that some inmates may serve out their entire sentence in local jail if the offense is minor and the sentence short (misdemeanors, for example).

A typical inmate search will show you the person’s full name, address, phone number, physical details, identification number, race, gender, age, sometimes a mugshot, their crimes, and sentences. The results will also show you the name and address of the prison system where they are incarcerated. You may also see a release date or parole date.

You can also check online sex offender registries to see if the person you are searching for was convicted of a sex crime. Sexual offenses are public information.

If you are the victim of someone in jail or an abused loved one, you can request an alert when they are scheduled to be released in case you fear them coming after you again. You may need the person’s offender ID, which you can usually get through other sources like the Department of Corrections for the state.

Online Offender Searches

Some websites like VINElink (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) offer the public a way to search for offenders throughout the U.S. This service is free and will notify victims when an offender is going to be released. Read the disclaimer on the VINElink web page. They offer no guarantees that you will receive proper notice before someone is released.

How to Find out If Someone Is in Police Custody Online

If you strike out with these other options or you want to make the job easier, you can use a third-party website like InfoTracer to enter someone’s name and find out instantly whether or not they have been arrested, what criminal charges they are facing, and where they are being held. Along with that information, you will see a ton more such as other criminal records, court cases, marriages and divorces, and an entire profile of public records. This might be the quickest and easiest way to find someone in jail.

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