California Inmate Records
California inmate records are official documents containing information about persons booked or incarcerated in state prisons, conservation camps, county and city jails in the State of California. The data contained in these records include inmates' names, genders, dates of birth, registration numbers, locations, and custody status. Interested members of the public can obtain this information per the California Public Records Act.
Inmate records are considered public in the United States and therefore are made available by both traditional governmental agencies as well as third-party websites and organizations. Third-party websites may offer an easier search, as these services do not face geographical limitations. However, because third-party sites are not government-sponsored, the information obtained through them may vary from official channels. To find inmate records using third-party aggregate sites, requesting parties must provide:
- The location of the sought-after record, including state, county, and city where the inmate resides.
- The name of the person listed in the record, unless it is a juvenile.
How to Perform a California Jail Inmate Search
California cities and counties have jails for offenders awaiting trials and inmates serving short sentences. Previously, these jails only held inmates serving sentences no longer than one year. However, overcrowding in state prisons has led to city and county jails holding individuals serving longer sentences. Currently, California prisons are reserved for inmates convicted of serious felonies such as robbery and murder. Inmates sentenced under the state's Three Strikes Law are also held at state prisons.
County Sheriff's Departments usually run county jails in California. A few cities also have local jails. These are managed by the cities' police departments. To learn how to find out if someone is in jail, contact the Sheriff's Department in charge of the county jail. If the inmate is in a city jail, parties can contact the city police department.
Many counties provide online access to inmate records on their websites through a California county jail inmate search. To find a person in jail, it is necessary to determine the county or city website and navigate to the Sheriff's or Police Department section. Such sections may provide resources such as inmate locator, jail contact information, and jail visitation information. You can also call or visit the Police or Sheriff's Department in charge of a local jail to inquire about obtaining inmate records.
Facilities Operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) operates 35 adult detention facilities, 4 youth facilities, and 44 conservation/fire camps. The physical addresses and contact information of these facilities is available on the facilities directory. California Conservation Camps are minimum-security facilities jointly operated by the CDCR, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Inmates at these camps are trained to help combat fires, floods, and other natural and manmade disasters. Meanwhile, the California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) oversees the state's youth correctional facilities and conservation camps.
How to Send Money to an Inmate in California Prisons or Jails
The CDCR provides certain guidelines for sending money to inmates incarcerated in California prisons. There are three ways to fund inmates' accounts:
- By electronic funds transfer
- By mailing a check or money order to a JPay address
- By mailing a check or money order directly to the prison
To send money to an inmate in state prison, you must know their name and CDCR number. For electronic funds transfer (ETF), the CDCR approves three vendors: Access Corrections, GTL/ConnectNetwork, and JPay. These vendors charge processing fees and post funds to inmates' accounts in 1 – 3 days.
If you opt to send a check or money order to a JPay address, it will take 10 business days for the inmate to receive the fund. Personal and cashier's checks are accepted. Make the check or money order payable to JPay. The vendor also requires the sender to complete a Money Order Deposit Form. Send the check or money order to:
2202 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007
There are no processing/vendor fees for checks and money orders sent directly to California state prison addresses. However, there is a 30-day hold before the funds appear in inmates' accounts. The sender's name and address must be on a check or money order mailed to state prison. Make it payable to CDCR and include the receiving inmate's name and CDCR number.
California county and city jails have varying rules about funding inmates' accounts. Visit the county/city website or call the Police or Sheriff's Department in charge of the jail to find out the steps required. Commonly used methods for sending money to inmates in California jails include:
- Cash and card deposits at payment kiosks in jail lobbies
- Card deposits over the phone via numbers provided by approved ETF vendors
- Checks and money orders sent directly to county jails or approved payment processors
- Card deposits made on ETF/payment processors' websites
How to Visit Inmates in California Prisons
The CDCR establishes rules and guidelines for visiting adults and juveniles in California prisons and other detention facilities. While planning your visit, make sure to read the CDCR's Guidelines for Visiting Adult Prisons and Juvenile Facilities.
It is also important to know the exact facility where the inmate is housed. You can use the California prison lookup tool to obtain this information. Next, create an account on the Visitor Processing Appointment Scheduling System (VPASS) and proceed to schedule visits. After scheduling an inmate visit, you can check the visitation status of the California prison from the VPASS Visiting Status webpage.
Alternatively, call (800) 374-8474 to check a CDCR facility visiting status. Since state prisons can unexpectedly cancel visitations, it is best to confirm the facility's status on the day of your visit. Meanwhile, note that visitation rules vary from one local jail to another. Visit the website of the county or city where the jail is located for information about visitation hours, ID requirements, and other specific regulations.
How to Perform a California Prison Inmate Search
The CDCR maintains the records of inmates held in state prisons. It provides a handy inmate lookup tool on its website for anyone trying to find individuals incarcerated in various state-owned prisons and detention facilities. Members of the public can access inmate records by performing a free inmate search by name or the inmate's CDCR identification number.
Note that this online access only provides the records of adult inmates. The records of juvenile inmates in California Youth Facilities are not publicly available. The records of adult inmates recently admitted or transferred to California prisons may not be immediately available too. It takes a few days for such records to be processed and added to the database. Lastly, the CDCR often restricts public access to the information of certain prisoners due to safety and security concerns. If you have trouble locating an inmate using the CDCR's online locator search tool, contact the Department's Identification Unit by calling (916) 445-6713 anytime from Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
How to Perform a California Jail Inmate Search
Municipal jails in California generally maintain inmate lists or jail rosters on the official website of the local law enforcement — sheriff's office or police department. Interested persons may use these websites to find a person in jail. Alternatively, the interested person may call or visit the jail administrator in person during business hours to find someone in jail.
The Difference between California State Prisons and County Jail
California's state prison and county jail system is the largest in the United States. It houses over 165,000 inmates, which is more than any other state. The majority of these inmates are serving time for non-violent offenses. However, there are a significant number of violent offenders as well.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) oversees the state prison system. The CDCR has a budget of over $10 billion, making it one of the largest agencies in the state government.
The prison system has an inmate population that exceeds the system's capacity by nearly 25%. This has led to poor conditions and a lack of access to basic services. The county jail system also has an average daily population that exceeds the capacity of the jails by nearly 10%.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) is the union that represents prison guards and other correctional employees.
How Do I Find Out an Inmate Release Date?
The release date of a California inmate is available online with an inmate search. Interested persons can also contact the administrative desk at the correctional facility to get the release date directly. This information is publicly available unless a court or the record custodian seals the information for privacy or safety reasons. In such cases, only the inmate's immediate family members, crime victims, attorneys, and authorized criminal justice officials, will have access to the inmate's exact release date.