Often, we are asked to locate an inmate and obtain his incarceration records (i.e., crime of conviction, release date, prison venue). Depending on the information provided, an investigator tasked with such an assignment may want to course through local records, moving up to federal facilities, if necessary. Inmate look-ups are common online services and generally, are free.
There has also been the occasional request for records from or before the early 1980s.
The early 1980s is a troublesome period for data locators as that was the advent of digitally archived records. (I’m sure that the inefficiency of typed and manually filed documents will come as a shock to most millennials!)
With ease of use in mind, we’ve put together a prison inmate locate checklist that you might find helpful.
Inmate Locator Information:
A. Federal Prison
If the inmate is/was in a Federal Prison: Locate immediately through this link.
If the inmate was released prior to 1982 from a Federal Prison: From the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP):
We receive many requests for information on Federal inmates released before 1982. Not all inmates who were in custody prior to 1982 were keyed into the BOP’s inmate management system. Accordingly, when we previously received a request for such information, we researched available records by hand. Many older records are held by the National Archives Records Administration (NARA), not the BOP and we are in the midst of transferring BOP’s pre-1982 inmate records to NARA.
As such, users seeking such information are encouraged to direct your inquiry to NARA. To assist them in determining whether information is available, the following information should be provided in the request:
- inmate name (including middle name/initial),
- date of birth or approximate age at time of incarceration,
- race, and
- approximate dates in prison.
For more information about how to obtain copies of records, visit the National Archives website.
B. Inmates by State:
Every State has a Department (or Bureau) of Corrections, the agency responsible for providing inmate look-up information to the public.
Example: New York: New York State Department of Corrections: Inmate Lookup.
These state searches are conducted individually and the search criteria is not retained for future use. In other words, if at a later date you wish to review an inmate’s records and current status, you have to re-input his/her information.
C. Nationwide Search By State
If, however, you wish to be automatically informed of any updates or changes in an inmate’s status, we suggest you use VINELInk: Victim Information Network. From VineLink:
Welcome to VINELink, an online portal to VINE, America’s number one victim notification network. VINE has been providing victims and concerned citizens with the power of information for decades, allowing these individuals to have the sense of security that they deserve. VINELink can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide the most reliable information for custody status changes and criminal case information.
Finally, a good source of information is your local District Attorney. While the DA’s Office is generally a very busy place, they are usually very helpful and have the most updated records.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, be safe.