Prison Records

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Find the information you need with a prison records search

A prison record contains all the essential information about an inmate's incarceration in a federal or state prison. Correctional departments retain prison records on all inmates who are currently or have been previously incarcerated at one of their facilities. Prison records for both state and federal inmates are available to the public.

Prison records are similar to jail records, but they are far more extensive and detailed. Because they can contain sensitive personal information, not all prison records are available during public searches.

Prison records contain important information regarding an inmate's criminal history, including:

  • The inmate's name and known aliases
  • The inmate's date of birth
  • Physical characteristics such as race, gender, height, and weight
  • Felony and misdemeanor convictions
  • The name of the judge and the sentencing court
  • The offender's current status, whether incarcerated or released, and location

Prison records also contain extensive information about the inmate, including:

  • The inmate's occupation and work history
  • The inmate's religious preferences
  • The names of the inmate's parents and children
  • The inmate's level of education
  • The inmate's use of drugs and alcohol

Prison records tell you about the person's criminal history and time spent in jail or prison. The information in prison records may vary by county or state, but the basic facts are always available in this type of criminal record. This website provides you with the tools to easily perform a prison record search.

Why search prison records?

There are several reasons to perform a prison record search. Law enforcement officers rely on prison record searches to learn more about potential suspects. Individuals and businesses can search prison records during the process of conducting background checks.

Police departments, sheriff offices, other law enforcement agencies, and the courts all use prison records when apprehending or arresting a suspect. Likewise, since past behavior is the best predictor of future performance, judges in courts use prison records to help them decide appropriate sentences.

Employers usually perform a prison records check as part of their hiring process. A background check can determine whether a job applicant has a criminal record that may disqualify him or her from a particular job opportunity. Since prison records are usually more detailed and extensive than jail records, they often include important details about the former inmate's personal life, such as drug addiction or alcohol dependency, which might negatively impact an employer's business.

Individuals may also wish to perform a prison record search as part of a background check. If you meet a potential romantic interest or business partner online, a prison record search can protect you from becoming involved with former inmates convicted of fraud, domestic violence, sexual offenses, or other serious crimes.

You may also want to perform a prison record check on a new daycare operator, babysitter, or neighbor. The information in a prison record search can protect you and your family.

Many former inmates perform prison record searches to verify the accuracy of their prison records. Prison records aren't perfect. They may contain errors that can affect a job search or a future arrest and sentencing. In some cases, the files of inmates with similar names may become mixed, so a search of your prison records and court records is the best way to avoid potential problems in the future.

Even if you don't have a prison record, it's a good idea to perform a prison record search on yourself. Your name might produce false positives in a prison record search. You can avoid confusion during a background check if you inform a prospective employer about a former inmate with a similar name.

Older prison records are also a valuable resource for genealogical research or historical research. Prison records dating back to 1870 are available online.

How to find the right prison records

It can be difficult to know where to start if you're looking for prison records. The first place you should look for prison records is an online database.

There are two main databases that contain prison records. The largest one, known as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), keeps historical prison records dating from 1870 to 1981.

If you know an inmate's name, date of birth, race, and approximate dates of incarceration, you can look up prison records online using the NARA database. You can also print or order copies of these records if the originals haven't been lost or destroyed.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) maintains a prison records database dating from 1982 to the present. The BOP also has an online inmate locator. Their database allows you to find the prison location and release dates for an inmate.

For more detailed information about a prison record, you must submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The first step is completing a detailed application specifying the public records you require.

Not all prison records are available through public searches. Because of the sensitive personal information they contain, portions of prison records may be redacted at the request of the inmate or his or her family. Likewise, law enforcement agencies or victims of crimes may also ask courts to redact all or part of any prison records. There are many reasons for redacting court records, ranging from the protection of victims in sexual assault cases to the endangerment of an informant inmate who may be targeted if certain information becomes public.

However, a prison record will almost always contain the name of the inmate, the charges made at the time of arrest, the name of the judge and court that sentenced the inmate, the location of the prison, the length of sentence, and the release date or pending release date.

More personal details about an inmate, such as previous work history and current employment status, marital status, family relations, and personal habits are not typically available through public record searches. Still, you may be able to obtain them through a FOIA request. Even then, certain prison records may be redacted or sealed.

How to perform the best prison records search

Before performing a prison record search, collect as much information about the subject as you can. This will help you avoid accidentally retrieving the prison records of someone with a similar name.

Knowing an inmate's full name, date of birth, race, and location of incarceration will be especially helpful. If you know the state, or even better the county, where an inmate was convicted and sentenced, you will be able narrow your search considerably. If possible, you can ask the inmate's friends or family members for this information.

Once you locate a prison record, it is important to read it closely. Unlike an arrest record, a prison record only includes offenses that ended in a conviction and incarceration. Still, it's important to keep in mind that even if someone served time, the conviction may have been overturned on appeal.

If a subject claims a conviction was overturned, you'll want to check with the courts in that jurisdiction to confirm the status of the case. The clerk may alert you to a change in the criminal record that wasn't updated in your prison record search.

If you run a prison records check on a prospective employee and discover that he or she has been incarcerated, it's always best to ask the applicant about the circumstances surrounding the incarceration. The extent of prison records and the nature of the offenses committed are your best indicator as to whether a job applicant may be successful in the future.

Prison records yield important information about people, but they don't always provide a complete picture. When reading a prison record report, make sure to consider the details of the conviction closely in order to make informed decisions about that individual.

By using the right online prison records search platform, such as this site, you'll receive the most accurate results while avoiding dead ends and time-wasting false positives.