Inmate Search: How to Locate a State or Federal Inmate

Once a criminal defendant has been found guilty and sentenced to a term of incarceration, they effectively become the property of either the Federal Bureau of Prisons or their state’s department of corrections. Once incarcerated, their ability to control their housing location and communication with the outside world is severely curtailed. This article strives to assist family members, friends, and attorneys of state and federal prisoners in locating their incarcerated loved ones and clients through the means of inmate search tools.

What is the Difference Between a State and Federal Inmate?

The United States is divided into a number of law enforcement jurisdictions. For the most part, states govern crimes committed within their borders, although the federal government can also prosecute crimes committed in any state, as long as the crime violates federal law. Due to this duplicity, a resident of any state in the nation (or U.S. territory) can be charged with either a state or federal crime.

The difference between a state and federal inmate lies in the crime that was committed and which law enforcement agency is investigating and prosecuting the case. For example, stealing beer from a local grocery store would most likely be a state crime, while robbing a federal credit union is most likely a federal crime. There are also several crimes that violate both state and federal law. For example, criminal defendants charged with possession or production of child pornography are technically violating both state and federal criminal statutes. As such, they could be charged either in state court (which provides for sentences measured in months or years for this conduct) or federal court (which provides for sentences measured in years and decades for this type of conduct.).

How Can You Locate a Prisoner?

Locating a state or federal prisoner is not like locating someone outside of prison. There is no 411 to call, telephone book to search through, online inmate yellow pages, or an app to help in the location process. Instead, there are online inmate locators; search tools which help those outside of prison locate those in prison. These inmate locators consist of web pages where the user can input the inmate’s first name, last name, and/or registration number and receive certain information.

Some inmate locators merely provide the inmate’s name, the prison where they are incarcerated, and their projected release date. Other inmate locators also include age, date of birth, crime of conviction, criminal history, and even their institutional disciplinary history. Each state, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons for that matter, provides different responsive, digital records.

If the prison system lacks such a prisoner search tool, prisoners’ families and friends can always call the headquarters for the prison in question. The website for the prison system can be located through a Google or Yahoo search, and the phone number should be readily available there.

Who Operates these Inmate Locator Services?

Categorically, these inmate locator tools are operated by each individual prison system. This is exclusively the case because it is the state or federal prison system in question that possesses, and has access to, the database that contains the personal and location information of the inmates incarcerated within their respective prison systems. While not all states have an online inmate locator search tool, most do, and many county detention centers and jails do, too.

What About the Many Private Prisoner Search Websites?

A simple Google or Yahoo search will indicate that there are thousands of website that offer information about state and federal prisons and those incarcerated therein. Some might even be so bold as to suggest that they themselves have their own inmate search tools. Such claims are usually dubious. At best, these private prisoner search websites have links to the state and federal inmate locators, where the user can then search for the inmate in question.

The problem with these websites is that by and large, they are focused on selling advertising, services, or products. They are based on commerce, not information. In order to fulfill their mission, they tend to spread out their information as much as possible to keep users clicking on new pages (and, thus, rendering more ads or product placements). Often, prisoner’s families and friends land at such a site, start looking for the information in question, become frustrated when they can’t find it, and give up in their search.

As for information about prisons themselves, most of the private websites that provide this information don’t bother to keep it up-to-date. Instead, they post each prison’s location and other general data, and then allow it to stagnate, where it eventually becomes outdated and useless.

Is There A List of All of the Government Inmate Locator Tools?

While there are many websites that purport to offer this type of information, many fall flat in their promise. But there are two entities that seem to do a good job. Prison Education News ( http://www.prisoneducation.com/inmate-locator ) and Prison Legal News ( http://www.prisonlegalnews.org ) both provide a very handy tool that presents links to each state’s prison system’s inmate locator tool. And this information is all contained on a single page, which makes them a breeze to use. These are probably the best tools around.

What If I Still Can’t Locate the Inmate I’m Searching For?

If a family member, friend, or attorney of an inmate still can’t find the location information they seek, they are advised to follow the above advice and call the central office or headquarters for the prison system in question. They should be able to provide the necessary information. If this doesn’t work, the guys at Prison Legal News and Prison Education News should be willing to help.

By Christopher Zoukis

Get Cheap Credit Cards and Save Money

Cheap credit cards – everybody’s dream. Right? It is if you’re like the majority of Americans and have a large amount of debt on your credit cards. Don’t worry though, it is still possible to find credit cards with good rates – you just have to know what to look for and what to watch out for.

Look for These Features

  • Low Annual Percentage Rate – 9% is the lowest percentage rate currently available
  • Required Monthly Payment – usually around 3% but not always the case. Watch out for higher monthly payment fees.
  • Rewards – look for rewards that you will actually use – gas, travel, shopping points.
  • Credit unions – tend to have the best deals for cards. Credit Unions are run by the members, so they have a vested interest in providing credit at very low rates. Because they are run by the members they are focus more on keeping their members happy and you can often get cheap credit cards through them. Banks worry more about keeping their investors happy.

Watch Out for Hidden Fees

Be sure and watch out for “hidden” fees. Credit card companies are required to put in writing all of their fees, but sometimes, they make them just a little bit hard to find in all of the fine print. Look for these common hidden fees.

  • Annual fees – The yearly charge for the “privilege” of having the card. This fee can vary from $25 per year to $300 per year.
  • Application fee – This is the fee that is charged when you apply to get a card. You may be charged as much as $10 to $15 per application.
  • Cash advance fees – This is a fee for getting cash using your credit card. The fee is usually 1-3% of the advance
  • Balance-transfer fees – A fee for transferring your balance. Most common rate is 1-3% of transfer.
  • Finance charge – The fee for having a monthly balance.
  • Penalty fees – Penalty fees for late payments have more than doubled in the past 12 years, from an average of $13 in 1995 to $28 this year, with some as high as $39.
  • Late payment fee – for making less than your minimum payment $15 – $39 for every billing cycle you miss
  • Over credit limit fee – for having a balance over your credit limit – $15 – $39
  • Returned Check fee – having a payment check returned to your bank – $38.
  • Phone Order Fee – charges for making payments over the phone, which can range from $5 to $15, even when the payments are on time.
  • Universal Default – this allows the your credit card company to boost your interest rate if you make late payments on other accounts, such as car loans, mortgages, or other credit cards, even if you have a spotless repayment history on that particular card.

Other Fees to Watch Out For:

These fees are less common but you need to watch out for them never the less.

  • Security fees
  • Introductory rate
  • Set up
  • Return item
  • Telephone ordering

Credit card companies are required by federal regulations to put all fees in writing. Read through all of the fine print. Often the information is in some sort of table. It will or should list all fees.

Use this checklist as a guide to finding cheap credit cards. By finding a card with the lowest rates and fees, you can save a great deal of money and pay your debt off fast.

Settling Credit Card Debt: You Can Do It If You Follow The Right Steps

The first step to settling credit card debt is finding out who has your best interests at heart. Some consumer credit counseling services aren’t as honest as you could hope, and learning how to avoid these dodgy services is a big step towards finding legitimate consumer credit counseling.

So what can you do find real, trustworthy help?

1. Follow FTC Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is there to protect consumers. It has a number of consumer protection laws in place, and offers the following advice to people who are thinking of settling credit card debt.

  • There are many non-profit credit counseling services out there who will work with you and help solve your financial problems. But be careful – a “non-profit” organization doesn’t necessarily offer its services for free. They could actually charge substantial fees or even have hidden fees, or they might ask for “voluntary” contributions. These fees could make your financial situation even worse.
  • You can find consumer credit counselors who offer services in person, over the telephone, or on the Internet. Try to find someone who offers counseling in person.
  • Many universities, military bases, credit unions, and housing authorities have non-profit consumer credit counseling services.
  • If you need information or referrals, try asking your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, or even your friends and family.

These guidelines can help you find real consumer credit counselors and get help with credit card debt.

2. How To Find Help With Credit Card Debt

The first step to settling credit card debt is finding debt management advice you can trust. Here are a few things to look for when you’re shopping for consumer credit counseling services.

  • Do they offer a wide range of services? You want a service that offers more than just a debt management plan.
  • Do they offer free information and educational material? If not, avoid them.
  • Will they help you avoid future problems in addition to dealing with your current ones?
  • Are they fully trained and licensed?
  • Will your personal and financial information be kept confidential?
  • Do the employees receive a commission if you sign up for some services or pay certain fees? If so, look elsewhere.

When you’re settling credit card debt and trying to improve your credit score, determination and consistent monthly payments are an important part of your debt management plan. If you follow these steps, it won’t be long before you feel a weight lift off your shoulders.

Taking action is important. If you don’t work towards your credit debt relief solution, your financial situation won’t improve. So make the first step and take charge of your credit card debt.