In some jurisdictions, an inmate’s release date from custody is considered public information that can be accessed by anyone. Some jails and prisons make this information available online where a search can be done using the inmate’s name or an identification number assigned to the inmate when he or she is taken into custody. An inmate’s release date can also be obtained by calling the facility where the prisoner is serving time, or by writing a letter to ask for information.
Some online databases include a photo of the inmate to help the searcher if several inmates share the same name. Other information, including the inmate’s date of birth and the jurisdiction in which he or she was sentenced, may also be provided to aid those who do not have personal information about the inmate when seeking a release date. A list of crimes committed and the minimum and maximum sentences for each offense are also commonly available through an online inmate search.
It is helpful to know how inmate release dates are calculated to understand the complex way sentences are computed. Inmates might earn a reduction in their sentences for good behavior; they also can lose credit for unacceptable acts while incarcerated. In some institutions, sentences can also be reduced for participation in programs aimed to rehabilitate the offender. In some cases, the inmate release date might be earlier than indicated if the prisoner is deported, sent to a medical facility or released to serve time in another institution for other crimes.
Many facilities that house criminals regularly update information based on credits earned to enable public access to the latest data on an inmate’s release date. The public can usually learn when the inmate is eligible for parole and when parole hearings are scheduled. Results of parole hearings are commonly figured into the inmate’s release date shortly after the parole board meets.
If more than one crime was committed, sentences could run concurrently or consecutively. Concurrent sentences are served at the same time, and the inmate release date reflects that. When the inmate is serving consecutive sentences, he or she must complete the term for one crime before the inmate release date begins applying to subsequent crimes.
Victims of crime are commonly notified of an inmate’s release date as a matter of law in some jurisdictions. They are also told about parole hearing dates and may attend the hearing to give a statement if they choose. These notifications are typically included in laws that protect the rights of crime victims.
Where To Begin Searching for an Inmate Release Date
If you are trying to find a particular inmate release date, know that there are several ways you can do this. It's necessary to have information about the inmate, such as their first and last name, and have an idea of what state they are in. Even if you don't know the specific prison or jail they are at, many states make it possible to search through all facilities within that state.
Beginning Your Search
Going online is the simplest way to find out where the inmate is so you can discover what facility they are at. If you know what state the inmate is in, you can do a search for "Department of Corrections offenders" with your state in the keywords. If you are having trouble locating the inmate, you can also call the prison or jail you think they are housed in.
Know That Inmates Can Be Moved
Just because the inmate you were searching for was at one facility does not necessarily mean they will stay there for the rest of their sentence.
Incarcerated individuals can be moved for a variety of reasons, such as:
- They have specific needs (such as mental health) best served at another jail or prison.
- They were just sentenced, and they are in a holding facility.
- They are going to a facility that deals with minimum or maximum security only.
Usually calling the prison or jail the inmate is at or searching online through your state's Department of Corrections can tell you what to expect. Sometimes inmates petition to be closer to family members, so their family does not have to drive as far to see them. These requests are not always honored, but it could be a possible explanation for why they are being moved.
Understand That Release Dates Can Change
Once you successfully find out where the inmate is located, you may be able to determine when their projected release date is. It's important to keep in mind that there are several factors that can influence when the inmate gets out. Committing crimes while incarcerated is one way that an inmate can extend their stay. In contrast, getting time off for good behavior is also a possibility. Other factors may play a role, such as if the inmate was wrongly convicted and new evidence comes to light or if the facility is overcrowded with others who have committed more serious crimes.
Know What Being on Parole Means
When an inmate does get released, they will often be on parole, especially if they got out early for good behavior. Parole often carries conditions, such as establishing a residence, getting a job, not leaving a certain geographical area without permission, and generally reintegrating back into society. Even after someone is released, if you search online, you should be able to see if they are currently on parole and when their projected parole discharge date is.
Breaking Conditions on Parole Can Lead to Prison Time
If the terms of parole are broken, this can lead to additional prison or jail time. It depends on the nature of violations and how often they occur.
Infractions that can send a parolee back to prison or jail include:
- Not attending counseling or 12-step meetings
- Testing positive for drugs, alcohol, or both
- Being charged with committing or taking part in a separate crime
Staying Safe as a Victim of a Crime
If you were the victim of a crime and are worried about what will happen when a prisoner is released, understand that this is a completely normal way to feel, but there are ways to protect yourself. Although the thought of possibly dealing with someone who committed a crime against you might be overwhelming, you can feel empowered knowing that there are tools available that can help you.
Tools That Can Support Victims
One program that can help is VINELink, which allows victims of crimes to get updates about the status of an offender. This includes when the offender is moved to a different facility or when they are released altogether. It is not available for every state. If your state does not use VINELink, check and see if it has something similar.
Another way to protect against an offender is to get a camera security system to monitor your home. Doing so makes it possible to note any suspicious activity and go directly to the police with proof if you believe you are being targeted.