Frequently Asked Questions

What if I know an inmate is being held in a state/local facility, but I don’t know which one?
First, click on the appropriate state from the choices on the right-hand part of the screen (if you are browsing from a smartphone or tablet you will find the States by scrolling down). If you aren’t sure whether the inmate is being held in a state prison or county facility, make your best guess. A list of facilities operated in that state will then be displayed. Again, if you don’t know the name of the facility in which the inmate is being housed, make your best guess. You will then be directed to a free inmate lookup service that may be able to assist you further to perform an inmate search by name.

What if I know I’m looking for federal prison inmates, but I don’t know which facility they are being housed in?
First, you need to know which federal authority administers the facility where the inmate is being housed. If you are unsure about which federal authority administers the appropriate facility, select (BOP) as they have jurisdiction over most federal inmates. A list of facilities operated by that federal authority will then be displayed. If you don’t know the name of the facility in which the inmate is being housed, you will then be directed to an inmate locator service that may be able to assist you further.

What if I don’t have any idea where the inmate is being held?
To search inmates, simply click on the links to an appropriate inmate locator service and you will be given further assistance.

Inmate Visitation
Although procedures and guidelines about inmate visitation are meant to be uniform across facility administration, in practice, rules can vary. For a complete list of the current rules concerning visitation and other inmate services, simply navigate to the facility and you will be provided with their current contact information. Scroll down for updated information about the facility’s current visiting schedule, rules and guidelines concerning visitation, as well as other useful information..

Commissary and Inmate Services
Most inmate housing facilities provide secondary, commercial sources of basic necessities, personal care products, supplementary food supplies and other items (commissary). For a complete list of the current rules and procedures for contributing to an inmate’s commissary account, simply navigate to the facility and you will be provided with their current contact information. Scroll down for updated information about the facility’s current commissary availability (if any), schedule, rules and guidelines concerning transferring funds to an inmate’s commissary account, as well as other useful information about inmate services. Lastly, you will find the facility’s telephone number, so you can contact the administration office to ask for further details about commissary.

Your Guide to Correctional Facilities
Throughout the United States, there are seven categories of correctional facilities. Each is denominated by its controlling administrative authority. The conditions and amenities offered by each facility can vary even between facilities of the same type.

County Jail
 = administered directly or indirectly by the local city or county. This type of facilities usually houses inmates for limited durations. Some inmates are being housed as part of pre-trial detention while other inmates have been convicted of violations, including misdemeanors and minor felonies.
State Prison
 = administered directly or indirectly by the state. Usually houses inmates for lengthier durations. Most inmates are being housed for convictions following felony violations.
 = Most federal prisons are administered by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
 = Operated by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Facilities may vary from short-term holding areas to longer term housing units.
 = Administered by the BIA for certain inmates convicted of violations of tribal sovereignty, territory or law.
 = every branch of the military administers their own inmate housing facilities. Inmates are usually held in military facilities solely for violations of military, rather than civil, law.
 = Used exclusively for inmates deemed High Value. Currently, all HVD facilities are outside the territorial boundaries of the United States.
While we cannot guarantee with perfect accuracy that all of the information provided on this website is correct and updated, we have done our best to provide the best information available. All inmate information displayed by this website should be used in a lawful manner according to current United States and national law. All information on this website is displayed as is.

US State Prisons System Explanation
State prison inmates reside in facilities that vary by security classification. State prison systems operate similarly to the federal government’s Bureau of Prisons operation, which uses a numbered scale from one to five to classify security levels, Level 5 the most and Level 1 the least secure. To locate an inmate in a State prison (click here) to browse the available State Prisons, ordered by State, where you can click on a prison and find the inmate search link if available on the facility’s page. Supermax prison facilities confine the most dangerous inmates. Most states have either a supermax prison section or an entire supermax prison, where every prisoner has an individual cell with sliding doors controlled from a secure remote station. Each cell has a toilet and a sink. Prisoners may leave their cells for one hour daily but must remain in the cell block area or an outdoor exercise yard unless escorted elsewhere under restraint.
Medium-security prisoner housing may be dormitories with bunk beds and storage lockers, communal showers, toilets, and sinks, and less supervision over prisoner movements. Prisoners with no history of violence or of risk of harm to the public occupy minimum-security dormitory facilities patrolled regularly by correctional officers. As in medium security facilities, there are communal hygiene areas. Minimum-security prisoners often work on highway litter removal and other convict labor projects. Many states allow persons in minimum-security facilities access to the Internet. Until the 1980s, there were no private prisons in the USA. Then, as a result of state War on Drugs policies, the rising numbers of incarcerations drove a demand for more prison space supplied by privatization and the development of prisons for profit. A 1998 study of three comparable Louisiana medium-security prisons, two operated privately, the third publicly, found the private prisons more cost-effective and equally secure with a higher proportion of inmates completing basic literacy and vocational education courses.

Imprisonment Laws in State Prisons
State laws vest virtually unreviewable discretion as to prison administration and inmate management in executive branch corrections departments and agencies. So long as prison policies, regulations, and confinement conditions are consistent with sentencing provisions and constitutional rights, courts defer to corrections administrators and do not exercise judicial review over their actions.

Inmate Rights in State Prisons
As implied in the previous paragraph, inmates retain certain enforceable constitutional rights, continued access to the courts perhaps foremost. The Eighth Amendment protects them against cruel and unusual punishments. The due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments requires fairness in their administrative appeals, the First Amendment preserves their freedom of religion, and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects them against discrimination or unequal treatment for race, gender, religion, age, or national origin. Inmates also retain at all times the “Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus” * from a state or federal court to challenge the validity of their convictions or the conditions of their confinement.

Commissary in State Prisons
Because state prisoners may not possess cash, any money they earn or their families or friends send them goes into their personal inmate trust funds, “commissary money” most prisoners call it. Prisoners receive meals, basic clothing, and a few very basic personal care items, and those who behave may use their trust fund money to purchase supplies from the prison commissary on commissary day, typically every two weeks. On commissary day prisoners make a list of items to buy and line up at the commissary window.
The recent development of online commissary order and inmate deposit services has introduced a quick, secure, and very convenient way to place a commissary order for an inmate or to deposit money into an inmate’s account. Users need to know the state confinement facility and the prisoner’s name or identification number.

Inmates Visitation policies and Rules in State Prisons
Results of a 50-state survey of prison visitation policies published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Yale Law & Policy Review show “substantial consistency and significant commonalities” across all jurisdictions surveyed. All states provide for prison visitation, all screen visitors and limit who can visit and when, all authorize maximum discretion for prison wardens or superintendents in implementing policy, and all treat visitation as a privilege, not a right. Most policies state unequivocally that inmates are not entitled to visits. State policies justify visitation limits on security grounds for the reason that contact visits may bring contraband into the prison, but similar security concerns yield widely variant policies. As jurisdictions seem to evaluate security in various ways, there is a need to learn more about policy in practice to understand this variation.
Certain policies for overnight family visits, as an example, could be predictable for states with certain common characteristics. Instead, states in each category examined appeared to have not much in common. The nine states, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, and Washington, that permit overnight family visits are not from any single or even two geographic regions, and it is unclear what else of relevance to visitation they have in common. The states often serve as laboratories of policy experimentation, so there should be some comity of best practices, but none is apparent in several key areas. North Carolina permits one weekly visit of two hours while New York allows maximum security prisoners visits every day. South Dakota allows only two names plus family members on each list of approved visitors while California allows an unlimited number. One must wonder about how these policies develop and which stakeholders contribute to the process when states draft or update their directives.

Paroles in State Prisons
State courts may specify in penal sentences how much time prisoners must serve before eligibility for parole, usually by indeterminate sentences of, as examples, 15 to 25 years or 15 years to life. In either example, the 15-year minimum would be the parole eligibility time to be served. States vest the decision on whether to parole a prisoner in their correctional authorities, typically through parole boards. Good conduct in confinement is no guarantee of parole. Other factors may operate most commonly establishment of permanent residence and gainful employment or some other lawful means of financial support. Social Security may suffice if the prisoner is old enough. Any prisoner not sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole or the death penalty eventually attains the right to petition for release on parole. The prisoner must agree to abide by parole conditions usually requiring regular meetings with a parole officer or community corrections agent, who monitors parolee adjustment and investigates any evidence of violation of any condition of release. For noncompliance with parole conditions a parolee may be arrested and returned to confinement for a parole violation hearing and then a parole board decision to revoke or to continue the parole.

Bails in State Prisons
The Eighth Amendment prohibition of “excessive bail” reaches and protects state prison detainees awaiting trial. State prisons inmates serving sentences have neither right nor entitlement to bail.

Inmate Services in State Prisons
Medical and dental care in prison is limited and many providers work in minimal conditions with prescription medications usually in short supply. Inmates often may not possess their prescribed medication but must go to the “pill window” for every dose. A correctional officer makes sure prisoners consume their doses before they leave the window. Some states charge inmates for their medications. Educational opportunities vary. Some states contract with local schools and colleges to provide vocational education for prisoners based on their academic skills, disciplinary records, levels of custody, length of sentences, and program availability. Most prisons offer basic literacy programs and high school general equivalency classes. For those who have completed high school, postsecondary educational opportunities may be available with contracting community colleges.

Inmate Services in State Prisons
At the State Prisons: Search Inmates and Facilities page, users can find state prisons inmates and state prison detainees. The state prison inmate search website includes full contact information for every facility listed for further investigation and verification of all state prison inmate search results. Click logo (or click here) to find all of the available State prisons ordered by State. Click on a facility to navigate to its page and find information and Inmate Locator links, if available.