Inmate Search: How to Locate a State or Federal Inmate

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy prisoneducation.com

Once a criminal defendant has been found guilty and sentenced to a term of incarceration, they effectively become the property of either the Federal Bureau of Prisons or their state’s department of corrections.  Once incarcerated, their ability to control their housing location and communication with the outside world is severely curtailed.  This article strives to assist family members, friends, and attorneys of state and federal prisoners in locating their incarcerated loved ones and clients through the means of inmate search tools.

What is the Difference Between a State and Federal Inmate?

The United States is divided into a number of law enforcement jurisdictions.  For the most part, states govern crimes committed within their borders, although the federal government can also prosecute crimes committed in any state, as long as the crime violates federal law.  Due to this duplicity, a resident of any state in the nation (or U.S. territory) can be charged with either a state or federal crime.

The difference between a state and federal inmate lies in the crime that was committed and which law enforcement agency is investigating and prosecuting the case.  For example, stealing beer from a local grocery store would most likely be a state crime, while robbing a federal credit union is most likely a federal crime.  There are also several crimes that violate both state and federal law.  For example, criminal defendants charged with possession or production of child pornography are technically violating both state and federal criminal statutes.  As such, they could be charged either in state court (which provides for sentences measured in months or years for this conduct) or federal court (which provides for sentences measured in years and decades for this type of conduct.).

How Can You Locate a Prisoner?

Locating a state or federal prisoner is not like locating someone outside of prison.  There is no 411 to call, telephone book to search through, online inmate yellow pages, or an app to help in the location process.  Instead, there are online inmate locators; search tools which help those outside of prison locate those in prison.  These inmate locators consist of web pages where the user can input the inmate’s first name, last name, and/or registration number and receive certain information.

Read More