If you’re having trouble locating a loved one or family member, checking the local jails is a natural step in the search process. People are arrested every day. It doesn’t take a severe transgression to be hauled in. Even too many parking tickets can lead to incarceration. You want to find your loved one, yet, you’re not sure how to find someone who’s in jail or even see if they’ve been arrested. There are steps you can take, depending on the situation. Finding a prisoner is different than running a criminal background check. Let’s discuss how to find out if someone is in jail.
Jail or Prison?
This is a time when you need to know your terminology. Although they’re used interchangeably in common language, Jail and Prison serve different functions. Someone who has been convicted of a crime and given a sentence is not in the same place as someone who was arrested last night. Let’s look at the difference.
- Jail – Housing lasts one year or less. Inmates are recent arrests awaiting arraignment, those who can’t afford bail and are awaiting trial, or those serving sentences for low level crimes. If the missing person has been arrested recently, jail is where they’ll be.
- Prison – Prison inmates are long term, over one year. They have already been convicted of a crime and are now serving out their court-appointed sentence in a state prison.
The more information you have on the person, the better. Law enforcement gathers a lot of information on the people they take in. Although, you should only need some basic information to locate someone. Here’s a checklist:
- LEGAL first and last name. You may know the person by a nickname, but you’ll need to know their legal name when searching for an inmate.
- Date of birth
- Basic physical description including race, eye color, hair color, or height.
Search Government Databases
Finding a convicted prisoner is much easier than finding someone who’s recently been jailed. Both state and federal prisons have online search tools used to locate inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons maintains an online inmate locater and database on its website, where you can search by name and other physical descriptions. State DOCs maintain similar databases where you can also search for a specific prisoner. Remember, this is for finding someone who is already serving their sentence. Finding someone recently arrested might take more snooping. New York is one of the few cities that maintains a database for recent arrests.
Call The Local Jail
County jails don’t have search engines, but a simple phone call should let you find out what you need. Find the phone number of your local police department or county sheriff’s department, and have the information ready for the person you’re trying to find. They should be able to tell you if they have that person in custody and what their status is. Also, checking jails in the surrounding areas is a good idea. You can also call the local bail bondsman and see if they’ve gotten a call from who you’re trying to find.
Not knowing what’s happened to a loved one is scary. However, there are plenty of ways to locate someone if they have been arrested. Just gather the right information to start your search. With the right info, you’ll know how to find out if someone is in jail.
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