What Are the Laws on Searching for Jail Inmates?


Quick Answer

Searching for inmates in U.S. jails is legal but can be a difficult and time-consuming effort, according to TheInmateLocator.com. Each jurisdiction has its own system. Some are more complicated to use than others, and the information available on websites typically varies by area.

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Full Answer

If the prison or jail location of an inmate is available, information can often be obtained online, according to TheInmateLocator.com. Six states plus Puerto Rico and Guam do not have locator systems online. In Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C., inquiries must be made by accessing the prison website.

If an individual is a convicted sex offender, there are various online search tools to find the person. TheOffenderList.com lists convicted sex offenders by state. The state lists typically include both offenders in jail and those who have been released. Each jurisdiction determines how much information is available. Some include photos, crime committed, length of sentence, gender, race and release date.

Criminals in the federal prison system can be located through the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to the BOP website. The online locator system identifies prisoners both by name and Bureau of Prison number, with options to search by other identifiers such as FBI or INS numbers. It also contains the locations of prison facilities throughout the United States.

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