Prisoner Info and Mugshots: How to Find Them Online

Exploring the criminal justice system on the Web

Hispanic man's hands on prison bars
Gary S Chapman/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

If you're looking for a prison inmate, a mugshot, or just want more information about the United States criminal justice system, the Web is your best bet. There are a great number of quality sites that will help you find detailed information about an offender, prisons, jails, and anything else you might be searching for related to the penal system.

State Prison Systems

AncestorHunt.com has a fantastically comprehensive list of every state's county jail inmate search links, including explanations of different information available (inmates currently incarcerated, outstanding warrants, press releases, etc.).

VineLink, a service of the National Victim Notification Network, gives users the ability to search criminal cases and offender information state by state, as well as the opportunity to obtain information about current criminal cases and the status of offenders.

Corrections Connection is an excellent site that offers direct links to every state's prison inmate locator in America (at least, every state that HAS a prison inmate locator - I noticed that Oregon is not on the list).

To find a state prison, visit State Prison Systems, a detailed state by state listing of corrections departments and prison systems websites in all 50 states.

Federal Prison Systems

The Federal Inmate Locator helps you search for Federal inmates incarcerated from 1982 to present day.

Mugshots

You can also find a mugshot using the Web; since most states keep an online database of people in the penal system, you can usually find a mugshot and identifying information (date of crime, length of sentence, etc.).

First, it's important to note that not every person who gets arrested gets their picture taken. Some people are simply cited and released. In addition, arrest information is not necessarily public record (unless you are a celebrity or person of note), which can make these images even less accessible.

If you want to get a copy of your own individual arrest images, you can go to the jail where the initial booking took place and make inquiries (the process differs by county and state). Most likely, you'll need to make a formal records request to obtain this information.

If the mugshot is part of an ongoing investigation, it will most likely be completely exempt from any kind of public records request. Again, this depends on where you're located.

Most states keep an online database of people in the penal system, and that usually includes a picture and identifying information (date of crime, length of sentence, etc.). Go to your favorite search engine and type in your state, followed by the phrase "department of corrections", i.e.:

florida department of corrections

Once you get to your state's Department of Corrections page, you might have to do a little bit of searching for penal records. Each state has them listed differently; some might have a link to "Offender Search", or "Inmate Search". Continuing with our Florida example, we'll go with Inmate Population Search.

Every state's penal search form has a couple things in common. You will need at least a last name just to get started, and if you have a first name, you'll have even better results.

Unless you have a tremendous amount of specific information, go with just a general search first; in other words, don't narrow your search by specific offense, or date of incarceration. Try a general search first and narrow it down as you get your results.

Federal Prison Information:

Federal inmates' mugshots are considered the property of the Federal government, and therefore are not allowed into the public domain. However, you can get information about the offender by using the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator.

More sources for arrest records and mugshots online

The Smoking Gun

Least Wanted on Flickr

Tampa Bay Mugshots

Family Watchdog

MugShots

National Victim Notification Network

Niche Prison Resources

Photographs from the Arkansas State Prison 1915-1937: Some haunting images here. Includes many female inmate images.

Prisoners' Inventions: Some of the ingenious contraptions that inmates come up with while serving their time.

Prison Statistics: from the US Department of Justice; lots of prison stats.

Alcatraz Official Web Page: The official home on the Web of one of the most infamous prisons in US history.

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