What Can You Do to Check Prisoner Status and Learn Specific Details About Your Loved One's Sentence?

What Can You Do to Check Prisoner Status and Learn Specific Details About Your Loved One’s Sentence?

Keeping up with loved ones in prison is not easy. Even if you go to all the hearings, details are not always clear. Incarcerated people don’t always know all the information about their sentence, either. You can check prisoner status for information about a loved one’s sentence yourself.

Image of someone determining how to check prisoner status.
Image courtesy of Semen Salivanchuk via Getty Images.

How do you check a loved one’s status online?

The Bureau of Prisons has a record search to check prisoner status. This tool allows loved ones find where an incarcerated person is and what their release date is. On their website, the BOP says they are looking at release dates based on the First Step Act. You can check the site for updates to a sentence.

While you can only use the BOP website for people in federal prison, most states have tools like this. To find out details about loved ones in state prison, use that state’s online search. This should also tell you how to contact them or share concerns. If you think the release date is not right, you can contact the prison to ask for more information.

If you want to know more than the release date, you might have to contact the county or state. Prison records are public record. That doesn’t mean that they’re free. You can get records from the county courthouse where your loved one stood trial. Some information about the person is private. Court rulings and proceedings may not be. Each county decides what fees they charge for these records.

What can affect prisoner status?

Your loved one’s sentence may change for lots of reasons. People in prison can earn good time based on the First Step Act. If they stay out of trouble, they can shorten their sentences every year. You can find out if the release date changes with online records.

Prisons also change release dates if they are too full. They may decide to let people in prison out early or on supervised release. Prisons sometimes release incarcerated people with medical problems, too. Other times, a government order might shut a prison down. The best way to find out if these apply to your loved one is to ask them. Most of the time, your loved one will know about this before it’s made public.

Image of someone determining how to check prisoner status.
Image courtesy of wolfhound911 via iStock.

Sentence length might also change if a person in prison completes a treatment program. This gives people in prison a reason to get help with addiction. This happens when they are in prison for nonviolent crimes.

Can you help shorten your loved one’s sentence?

In most cases, the only way to shorten a sentence is for them to appeal the sentence or earn good time. Sometimes, incarcerated people can get out early if a next of kin is very ill. The prison may also grant supervised release in that situation. This allows them to see and be near a loved one who is close to death.

The Takeaway:

You can check prisoner status online using state and federal tools. These tools will tell you an incarcerated person’s release date and where their prison is located. If you need more information, you can visit the county courthouse. Prison records are public.

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