It is possible to look up mugshots of inmates by using a prison identification number or name. If searching by name, it is also helpful to have additional information available such as race, date of birth, gender and state.
Mugshot databases are usually cleared on a regular basis. Therefore, if an inmate was incarcerated prior to a certain time, his or her mugshot may not be available. That said, a person may be able to do a search on the Internet to find an old mugshot. If that fails, contact the prison directly to see if there might be a mugshot archive available.
The Bertillion System was invented by a Parisian clerk in the Prefecture of Police Office. It was a predecessor to current-day mugshots, a side-by-side front and side view of the accused's face. Introduced at the 1893 World's Fair, the system quickly caught on in the United States. Many people viewed the mugshot as a step forward in scientific law enforcement. Some police departments superimposed one mugshot on top of another, thus giving an image of a "typical" pickpocket or burglar. When browsing mugshots online, it is important to remember that many are posted regardless of whether or not the person in question has been convicted of a crime.