How Can You Look up a Prisoner If You Haven’t Heard from Them?

How Can You Look up a Prisoner If You Haven’t Heard from Them?

If your loved one is in prison, you need to find out exactly where they are being held in order to keep track of their status as a prisoner. You should know if they are in a federal or state prison or a state, county or city jail to use a prisoner lookup tool. If you have been with your loved one through the entire sentencing process, you most likely know where they are being held.

What information do you need to know to use a prisoner lookup tool?

If you have been apart or they are moved without your knowledge, certain tools and tips will be useful. You can register your name on sites such as Pigeonly, which is free, to be able to stay connected with your loved one. Pigeonly helps you stay in touch with your loved one by phone, tablet or computer for a much lower cost than directly using sources from the DOJ or BOP. To use tools like Pigeonly and other tools that aid in prisoner lookup, you will need the following information:

  • The prisoner’s date of birth
  • The state the prisoner is held in

Once you find out where they are being held, you can find their identification number and be able to stay in better contact with them. You are always able to check their status with a prisoner lookup. The ability to make phone calls and have visitors are not rights; they are privileges. Your loved one may not have the privilege to receive family visits and phone calls.

Personal records on a table. Privacy data.Image courtesy of designer491 via Getty Images.

How can you find out your loved one’s status?

If your loved one is housed in federal prison, you can look them up at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. If you can’t find them in the state’s database then they are probably in a federal facility.  You can look them up in two ways:

  • First and last name, age, race and sex
  • Their ID number

You can also do a prisoner lookup at Victim Information and Notification Everyday. All you need to look up an incarcerated person is the state where they are incarcerated. This website can give you details about them including:

  • Their ID number
  • Date of birth
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Custody status
  • Location
  • Scheduled release date

There is also state-specific lookup information for prisoners. If your loved one is not incarcerated in federal prison, you will have to search the government website of the state. Each state has a different process. For example:

You need the Department ID Number or the New York State ID Number. If you have either of these for your loved one, you don’t need any other information.

In California, all you need is your loved one’s full legal name or ID number.
Most states allow you to search for an incarcerated person on their government website, though some do use a third-party search tool such as Victim Information and Notification Everyday.


Pennsylvania has an incarcerated person/parolee locator database where you can search by knowing the personal information of the person or parolee.

Why haven’t you heard from your loved one?

It is possible that your loved one has had their visits and phone calls blocked. People in prison can lose access to contacting their loved ones if they have gotten in trouble while in prison.
There are many other reasons a prisoner can’t talk to you. Some include the following:

  • The prison is on lockdown
  • Your loved one is in solitary confinement
  • They don’t have letter writing material
  • They have no money to make a phone call

If you think your loved one is being blocked from having outside communication, you should try to help them as soon as you possibly can. You can help by adding funds to their commissary account.

Is it hard to search for your loved one’s information via prisoner lookup tools?

No. You only need a minimal amount of information such as where they are in jail,
Be aware that you should never be charged to access any of this information. If a website is trying to charge you for information, then you are not searching in the correct spot.

The Takeaway:

You can find out where your loved one is being housed with prisoner lookup tools. These tools are free if you have the right information. Consequently, there may be reasons why your loved one is unable to contact you while they are being incarcerated.

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