Prisons and Prisoners

Find the answers to the most commonly asked questions about prisons, jails, and inmates.

Locate a Federal Inmate

To locate someone who is currently in custody or incarcerated in a federal prison, or has been anytime since 1982, visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator. You can look up inmates in two ways: 

  • First and last name (required) and middle name, age, race, and sex (optional) 
  • Inmate number from the: 
    • Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Register 
    • D.C. Department of Corrections (DCDC)
    • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
    • Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) 

Locate a Person Held for an Immigration Violation

You can locate someone who is currently detained for possible violation of immigration laws or who was released within the last 60 days from an ICE detention facility by using the Online Detainee Locator System or by contacting the field offices of the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Visit a Federal Inmate

Each prison sets its own visiting hours. By law, an inmate gets at least four hours of visiting time per month. If you have a question about a particular prison, contact that facility directly. Review information on visiting a federal inmate to ensure your visit is a success.

For further information, please contact the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

State or local correctional systems may have different procedures for visiting an inmate.

Send Money to an Inmate

Federal Correctional Facilities

Inmates held at a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility have bank-type accounts called commissary accounts that they can use to purchase items. You can deposit money into a federal inmate's account by one of the following three funding methods:

  1. MoneyGram (electronically)
  2. Western Union (electronically)
  3. United States Postal Service (money order through the mail)

If the inmate is at a private contract facility, please contact that facility or contract operator for instructions on how to send funds.

State and Local Correctional Facilities

Options for sending money to inmates in state and local prisons vary. Please contact the appropriate state or local correctional department for more information.

Prison Records

Federal Prison Records

You can find federal prison records by date.

1870 - 1981

The National Archives and Records Administration maintains early prison and prisoner records. Using indexes of inmate case files for the U.S. penitentiaries at Alcatraz, Leavenworth, and other sites, search by name for former inmates at each location to determine whether they were imprisoned there. 

You can order copies of these prisoners’ records, if available. Include the following information about the inmate in your request:

  • Name (including middle name/initial)
  • Date of birth or approximate age at time of incarceration
  • Race
  • Approximate dates in prison

1982 - Present

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) maintains records of federal prisoners released after 1982. You can use the Inmate Locator to find out when a prisoner was, or is expected to be, released from prison.

To learn more about an inmate, submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the BOP, along with a completed Form DOJ-361.

The BOP Library provides a wealth of resources on corrections, criminology, and related fields.

State and Local Prison Records

For state and local prison records, contact the state or local corrections department

Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is the agency in charge of ensuring federal correctional facilities are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure. It is responsible for more than 200,000 inmates and nearly 40,000 employees.

In addition to maintaining the federal correctional facilities, the BOP provides resources for:

  • Victims and witnesses

  • Employees

  • Health management

  • Ex-offenders

  • Media representatives

Complaints about Federal, State, and Local Correctional Facilities

Local, County, or State Correctional Facilities

Follow the process below to file a complaint about local, county, or state correctional facilities. This includes complaints about a particular facility, policy, or procedure, or allegations of abuse.

Federal Correctional Facilities

Follow the process below to file a complaint about Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities. This includes complaints about a particular facility, policy, or procedure, or allegations of abuse.

Give the complaint a reasonable amount of time to progress before going on to the next step. Qualified legal advice, as always, remains an option.

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Last Updated: January 30, 2019