How to Search For an Inmate

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Locating an inmate may seem daunting, but with the right information, it can be fairly simple. There are federal, state, and third-party search engines that can be used to locate an inmate. Each may request varying information about your inmate, so gather as much as you have to yield the best search results.

When an offender is booked into jail or prison, one of the first hurdles that family and friends may face is locating the inmate. If loved ones were kept in the loop of the inmate’s entry into the correctional system, it may be simple for them to track where the prisoner ends up. But for those who are less informed about the whereabouts of the inmate, they may have to resort to using online offender search tools to lookup a prisoner’s whereabouts.

Info Needed For an Offender Search

Hopefully, you will have a good amount of information to begin your search for an inmate. Even with minimal information – such as just the prisoner’s name – you may have success in locating them depending on the search functions offered.

The best place to start is the state in which the inmate was incarcerated. If you know that, you will be able to search between federal or state correctional institutions (explained below.)

Some states’ departments of correction offer extensive search engines to lookup a prisoner. For other states, there are inmate search functions offered between various facilities. If you know the facility – or even the city or county – where your inmate might be, check for county and city corrections websites if you cannot locate them through the state website.

Most search engines require that you enter an inmate’s first and last name, although many will accept partial parts of both names. This can sometimes yield several search results, especially if partial spellings of the names are used. The most effective way to search for an inmate is with their DOC or identification number, although you may not have that until after you get in contact with your inmate.

Additional information that can be used to narrow search results includes gender, race, date of birth, and last county or city of residence.

Federal Inmate Locator

If you are not able to locate your inmate through state search engines, try using the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator. Information you can search for a prisoner by includes name, age, gender, race, or identification number.


Many states use VINELink, a Victim Notification system that offers a search engine for many states’ correctional facilities. Even though it is meant to be a resource for victims of crime, it can also be used by family and friends of inmates who wish to stay up-to-date on the status of their inmate.

State Locators

Each state provides at least one option for searching for an inmate. Some use VINELink, while others offer search engines on their department of corrections website. Below is a list of states and all the search engines that each offers for locating an offender. Each may request different information, so gather as much as you have for your prisoner (i.e. name, age, date of birth, gender, race, address, etc.)

This site is not owned or operated by any state government agency, read more.