Federal Inmate Search

Locating a friend or loved one who is serving a sentence in federal prison can be overwhelming early on when the prisoner is at "holding" locations or being moved from a country jail to a federal detention center. Many times, a local court system where the case was originally heard can assist you in the exact facility the prisoner will be located. However, if you do not have that information, it is still relatively simple to locate someone once they are at the facility where they will serve their sentence. Click here to visit the BOP Inmate Locator Site.


Referred to as the BOP, the Federal Bureau of Prisons offers an inmate locater to help make locating someone easier. The information includes inmates held from 1982 until the present. The BOP locater is easy to find on the web, and while each state may vary in the regulations of how to contact prisoners, the federal prison system is closely uniform in its requirements.


Once you have located someone, visiting them requires that your name be on their approved visitation list. In other words, the inmate is asked who they will allow to visit them and they make up the list of visitors who will be approved to see them. If your name is not on the list, you may write the inmate requesting that they add your name to the visitation list.

Normally, an inmate will include immediate family members, spouses, relatives and close friends. The list normally includes about 10 people. The inmate is issued a handbook that has allowed visitation procedures, however, visitors can also find this information on-line that includes the name and address of the facility, days and hours of approved visitation, dress code requirements, allowed items, rules for visiting children and identification required to visit.

There are other visitors who have the authority to visit a federal prisoner whether they are on the visitation list or not. They include officials from other embassies or consulates, clergy, parole officials, prospective employers and attorneys.


Other stipulations may also arise in your attempt to visit a federal inmate. If you are a convicted felon on probation or parole, the prison staff will decide whether you will be allowed to visit. You will also be required to have a written authorization from your probation officer to visit.

Children must always be accompanied by adults during visitation if the child is under the age of 16. A parent must approve the child's name being placed on the visitation list. Some federal institutions offer programs for very young children during the visitation time.

Pet are never allowed inside a federal prison. The only type allowed will be assistance dogs for those with disabilities. For that to be approved, you must show appropriate certification of the dog's training and your need for the dog.

The Commissary

A commissary was established in 1930 by the Department of Justice that allows inmates at each federal institution to have a bank account to hold inmate funds. These funds can be used to purchase items inside the commissary that are not issued by the facility. Friends and family members have the option of whether to deposit money into an inmate's account during his time served.

There are particular ways to contact the inmate bank account, but traditionally the information will be given through the specific facility or on-line. You may send money to federal inmates through the U.S. Postal Service, electronically through Western Union or Money Gram. To be received, the inmate must be housed prior to sending the money at the particular institution it is designated for. If the inmate is not physically at the facility at the time the money is sent, it will not be accepted.

Sending Money

Once your inmate is located and physically at the facility where he will serve a sentence, funds can be sent to the commissary bank accounts by various means. Funds being sent through the mail must all go to the following address: Federal Bureau of Prisons, P.O. Box 474701, Des Moines, Iowa, 50947-0001. You must include the inmate's name and eight-digit register number with the address on the front of the envelope for the money to be received in the proper place.

If you are mailing the money, it must be in the form of a money order, made out to the inmate's full name, with the eight-digit number included on the front of the money order. Your envelope must have a return address in the upper left-hand corner. Personal cash or checks will not be accepted.

Once you have located the facility, the inmate and discovered how to visit, you will be able to stay in touch and deposit funds for the remainder of the sentence.