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 an inmate 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, contact the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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

Send Money to an Inmate

You can send money to inmates so they can buy certain items.

Send Money to an Inmate at a Federal Prison

Inmates at federal prisons have bank-type accounts that they can use to buy things. You can deposit money into a federal inmate's account by:

  • MoneyGram (electronically)

  • Western Union (electronically)

  • United States Postal Service (money order through the mail)

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

Send Money to an Inmate at a State or Local Prison

Options for sending money to inmates in state and local prisons vary. Contact the 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 in charge of ensuring federal prisons are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and secure. It is responsible for more than 200,000 inmates and nearly 40,000 employees.

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

  • Victims and witnesses

  • Employees

  • Health management

  • Ex-offenders

  • Media representatives

Complaints about Federal, State, and Local Prisons

You can file a complaint about a prison, policy, or procedure. You can also file a complaint about claims of abuse.

File a Complaint About a Local, County, or State Prison

To submit a complaint about a local, county, or state prison:

  1. File a formal complaint directly with the state or local correctional facility.

  2. Contact the state Department of Corrections office if the issue remains unresolved.

  3. Contact your governor.

File a Complaint About a Federal Prison

To submit a complaint about a federal prison:

  1. File a formal complaint directly with the facility.

  2. File a complaint with the BOP Regional Office that oversees the facility.

  3. Contact BOP Headquarters or the Department of Justice - Office of the Inspector General, which oversees the BOP.

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: April 4, 2019