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How to Find Out If Someone You Know Has Been Arrested or Incarcerated

It happens everyday. People get arrested and put in jail. Sometimes it’s for something serious and a person will be locked up for months or years. Sometimes it’s only an overnight stay or a few days. But for friends and family of someone who seems to just disappear, if after checking local hospitals doesn’t turn up anything, checking with police and the jails should be the next step.

If you are concerned that a friend, family member or loved one has been arrested or incarcerated, you may be wondering how you can find out. Thanks to the internet, it has become much simpler in nearly every jurisdiction to find out if and where someone has been taken into custody, incarcerated or imprisoned.

Finding a Jail or Prison Inmate

Generally, the prison system is split up into a few different types of facilities. There are federal prisons, state prisons and county jails. Typically, the separation relates to the type of crime that an inmate is convicted on, as well as the duration of the sentence. Federal crimes result in incarceration in a federal prison, while state law felony convicts sentenced to more than one year will be housed in state prisons, and those convicted of misdemeanors and sentenced to less than one year are generally held in county jails.

The federal prison system provides an online inmate locator service which only requires you to know a person’s basic information, such as their name, age, race and sex. If the person you are searching for does not turn up in the federal system, next you’ll need to check your state’s online inmate locator system.

Finding an Arrestee

If someone has been arrested, it may be more difficult to track them down. Frequently, police stations and local courthouses utilize county jails to house arrestees that are pending arraignment and bond/bail hearings. Usually, to find out if someone has been arrested will require a call to the police department that made the arrest, or sheriff department in charge of housing pretrial detainees.

However, doing an online search for your specific location could be rather useful as some cities, such as New York City, provide services to find a recent arrestee.

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