How to Find Out if Someone is or Was in Jail?


There are different reasons for information about someone’s criminal history is important to know. For example, employers tend to check their candidates to see if they have a criminal history or if they have been convicted of some crime that required them to spend time in jail. But also, this information is checked by institutions like banks, embassies, etc. Sometimes it happens that you haven’t seen a person for a while, and you want to check whether he or she is in jail. The same can happen if you know a person is doing time, but you do not know where. To check you can use one of the internet’s databases containing such information, like lookupinmate.

Regardless of the reason, it is not something uncommon. It can happen to anyone, for different reasons. When caught up in a specific situation, a person can end up behind bars for months or years. Being imprisoned for a few days is also possible.

When should you start considering the option that someone is in jail?


If the contact has been lost for some time and attempts to find a person via friends or other contacts fail. When it is a case of a close family member, people usually turn to check with hospitals. If something happened, like an accident, and a person has been admitted to the hospital, you’ll know. However, if this fails, police are the second check to perform. They should tell you if a person has been arrested for some reason, and where you can find him. Checking jails and prisons should also be done if the contact has been lost for a longer period of time (we’re talking about years).

As we’ve mentioned in the introduction, thanks to the internet and online databases, you can easily find out if a person has been incarcerated or imprisoned in some jails. All you need to have are basic information about that person, for a search engine to come out with a correct result. Aside from being put to jail, this information can also tell you that someone has been taken into custody, when, and why.

Finding a person in a prison, or a jail

Prison as a system can be quite complex. In most cases, it is divided into facilities of various types. A federal, state or county jail is not the same, as it does not contain the same category of criminals. So, it depends on the type of crime one has committed, but where a person is being held also depends on the duration of the sentence.

If a person has committed a federal crime, they will be placed in federal prison. If it was a state law felony, and the sentence is more than one year, then the person will be put in state prison. Minor crimes, like a misdemeanor, that are usually less than a year-long, are placed in county jails.

To locate someone in a federal prison you need a full name, age, race, and gender, to enter the locator service. Since there are different locators as well, if this search fails, you should search a state locator and check there.

Finding out if someone was arrested

This can be a bit tricky, for a couple of reasons. You can choose to call all the police stations locally and ask if someone has been arrested, but the problem arises when a person who has been arrested is put in jail because of a pending bail hearing, for example. Police stations should have this information, but it’s tricky to locate the one who made the arrest. Sheriff’s department in this case might be a smarter option. It has a special department for detaining those who gather such information.

Knowing all the above, we can sum up the whole procedure into three steps:


1. Gather as much information as you can

To find out if someone is in jail or not, it could be useful to start with contacting all the people he or she finds close and spends the most time with, for example, family members. When this is not possible, the minimum information you should have is a full name. If you know people close to a person you can additionally gather information like birth date, and hair color, because this will be useful when performing the search.

If you are searching for a person who you have zero information about, a nickname can also be helpful, or date you think this person might have been arrested. For sure, it will make an online search a bit more challenging, but it’s a start.

2. Find out If it is a jail or prison

As we’ve mentioned in the beginning, different offenses or crimes mean different types of institutions. A jail is a place housing people who have been arrested but await trial. While prison is a place where people who serve sentences longer than a year go.

3. Think of which jail a person can be held in

Having no idea about the reason a person is behind bars, it may be a lot easier to find out the location of the jail he is being detained in. Knowing which county was a person arrested in makes it easier to figure out if it is a county jail, he’s been held.  Then the information is just a contact away.  For every other situation, an online search engine is a perfect and quickest way to find out.

What do you do when you find out? How do you make contact?


The safest way to make contact in a situation like this is by writing an old-fashioned letter. While some may not have phone access for various reasons, they will most definitely have access to a piece of paper and a pen. A letter will reach them. It can get lost, though. So, make sure you have a person’s correct full name, at least.

In the end, one can conclude that the internet has made it possible to locate almost anyone, in prison or not. You just need a couple of basic information, and you’ll have results in no time.

Written by Kan Dail