Maintaining contact with those who are serving time in federal institutions is both a means of support for the inmate and a comfort to those on the outside. But unfortunately, for a myriad of reasons, it can be difficult to establish contact especially if the incarcerated individual has recently transferred institutions. If you are trying to locate an inmate, you may be surprised to learn that the process is quite streamlined.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates a user-friendly online database that provides information about individuals incarcerated in federal prisons across the United States. This publicly accessible resource, known as the Inmate Locator, affords users the ability to search for inmates using a variety of identifiable parameters, including their name, race, age, or BOP register number. This system’s specificity ensures that even those with common names can be easily found. Click here to access the BOP Inmate Locator.
Once an inmate is located through the database, individuals can typically uncover details related to the inmate’s status, such as their current location, projected release date, and the possibility of transfers. Access to this data is crucial for those wishing to visit or correspond with federal inmates, as the exact location offers you their mailing address.
How to Use the Contact Information You Find
Now that you have successfully located the contact information for your incarcerated loved one, it’s time to take the next step: reaching out. The Bureau of Prisons offers a variety of communication channels, each offering a different way to stay connected.
Sending Mail to an Incarcerated Individual
When sending regular mail to an incarcerated individual in the federal system, it’s essential to follow specific guidelines to ensure your letter reaches its intended recipient. First, address the envelope using the inmate’s full name, registration number, and the facility’s address. The address should look like: JOHN SMITH #00000-000, 123 CLINK STREET, TOWN, ST, ZIP.
Make sure you use plain, white paper and a standard envelope, avoiding any decorations or embellishments. Thicker-than-usual stock paper may be turned away, including greeting cards or things like construction paper. Include your return address on the envelope.
Remember, all mail is subject to inspection, so do not send prohibited items such as polaroid photos, cash, or explicit materials. All mail undergoes a security screening before reaching the inmate.
How to E-Mail an Incarcerated Individual
Email communication in the federal prison system is primarily facilitated through a service known as CorrLinks, a government-approved email system designed specifically for use by inmates and their external contacts. CorrLinks offers a controlled, secure way to maintain digital communication with incarcerated individuals.
To use this service, one must first receive an invitation from the inmate and then create an account on the CorrLinks website. If you’re reaching out to a person for the first time, it’s best to send regular mail first where you offer your e-mail address and ask to connect on CorrLinks. Once the incarcerated individual adds your e-mail to the system, you will receive an invitation to set up an account on the CorrLinks website.
This system generally does not provide instant messaging; instead, emails are subject to review and delay by prison staff for security purposes. Also note some inmates may have restrictions based on their custody level or disciplinary status.
How to Visit an Incarcerated Individual
If you’re interested in visiting an incarcerated individual, know there is a process and you cannot simply show up. People who wish to visit must first be approved by the Bureau of Prisons following submission of the Federal BOP visitation form (available here). It’s important this form is filled out completely, including with the name that matches the visitor’s drivers license or identification.
Once submitted, it takes 4-6 weeks for approval. The incarcerated individual will receive a notice in the mail regarding your approval or denial, at which point they can register for a visit at an agreed-upon time.
Visit our full guide for visiting a federal prison camp for more detail.
Searching for Those Incarcerated in State Prisons
Start on your state’s Department of Corrections website to look for an inmate search or locator tool. Similar to the federal system, these databases usually allow searches through identifiers such as names and inmate numbers, and provide information about the facility where the inmate is held. For those states without online search options, you can contact the state’s Department of Corrections directly through phone or email to request inmate location information. This is all
Avoid Third Party Inmate Locator Services
If you’re having difficulty locating an inmate using government resources, you may stumble upon third-party services that compile data from a variety of correctional facilities and services across the country. Exercise caution when using these services as they may charge fees, the accuracy of their data depends on their ability to synthesize large sets of information, and ultimately, they are only dealing in publicly-available information. In other words, what they have access to, you also have access to.