5. Information Sources
Clients from publicly funded drug abuse treatment programs often have a criminal history that includes several arrests or incarcerations. The criminal justice system (CJS) provides a number of possible avenues for locating clients. These include reports referred to as "rap sheets," although most states have a more formal name for these reports. In California, for example, they are called Criminal History Records. Other CJS-based information sources are state and county booking information systems, arrest reports, FBI reports, county jail lists, parole and probation records, and deportation records. Many CJS sources are now available on the Internet and links are provided below.
A rap sheet provides information on all arrests for an adult individual. Juvenile arrests are deemed confidential and are not easily obtained. In some states, rap sheets are public information; in others, special evaluation study permission or signed authorization by the client is needed to obtain them. Call the Attorney General's office in the state in which you are searching to obtain the regulations governing the issuing of criminal justice records for evaluation purposes. The rap sheet includes the charges, name and location of the arresting agency, dates of arrest, and disposition of each case. Also, important personal information is usually included, such as date and place of birth, driver's license number(s), social security number(s), and other names the client has used in the past. Additionally, the rap sheets may provide information that can open new search routes. For example, alternative social security numbers may be used in credit bureau or other database searches.
Arrest Report. If the client is not currently under legal supervision but has been arrested within the last few years as noted on the rap sheet, an arrest report may be requested through the arresting agency. As with rap sheets, each state has its own regulations governing the process by which arrest reports are obtained. Call the state Attorney General's office, the headquarters of the state police, or the county sheriff's department for information regarding the issuing of arrest reports. The arrest report supplies the client's address at the time of the arrest, as well as the addresses of accomplices and/or relatives or contacts of the client.
FBI Report. An FBI report provides information for clients arrested out of state as well as in your state. Access to FBI records is usually only possible via special approval from a law enforcement office or other criminal justice agency.
Federal prisoners are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. To find out whether a client is currently housed in a federal prison, call (202) 307-3126 or access the inmate-locator Web site for federal prisons listed below. Give the client's full name and date of birth. The request is straightforward, as this is public information. The database includes all Federal inmates entering prison from 1982 to present, which is recent enough for most purposes.
Federal Bureau of Prisons main Web site:
Inmate locator for Federal Prisons is on
the Internet at:
Inmate locator for Federal Prisons by telephone at:
If you want to find out whether a client is currently incarcerated in a state prison, either call the number for the Department of Corrections (DOC) in that state or access the available inmate-locator Web site. A list of all the Departments of Corrections for the United States, their phone numbers, and inmate-locator Web site is provided below. When calling, have on hand the client's full name, date of birth, and corrections identification number, if available. Department personnel or the locator Web site will be able to tell you where your client is housed and provide a phone number for the facility. The Department of Corrections will also be able to tell you if the client is out on parole and the region to which he/she is assigned. If your client has been discharged from prison (i.e., released without parole) or, you live in a state that has abolished parole supervision, DOC personnel will be unable to provide you with any information other than that the inmate has been discharged or released without parole. This is public information, and you will need no special permission to access the system.
The link below will take you to the departments of corrections for
all 50 states.
Most states provide information on the current location (which prison) or status (on parole, discharged from parole, etc.) of an inmate. Some states include the conviction offense, physical descriptions, release dates, even mug shots. These can be helpful when you are trying to determine whether an inmate is indeed your client or just someone with a similar name. Below is information for all 50 states, including direct links to inmate lists.
Anchorage Central Office
District of Columbia
Jail inmate lists typically include everyone in jail the day you check the list, but some have archived information and probation information as well. Inmate lists typically contain information on an inmate's arrest date, arrest charges, release date, and court dates. They may also include the physical description of the inmate, aliases, or mug shots. Many counties now offer inmate lists on their Web sites (see below). If your county does not offer such a Web-based listing of inmates and you have staff that can easily and economically stop by the county jail on a daily (Monday - Friday) basis, this list can prove valuable. The list is often available at the front desk at the jail, and can be inspected by anyone, or may be obtained by permission from the jail commander. When a possible client is found on the list, a staff member should call the inmate information number and give the booking number and date of birth to verify that the inmate is indeed a study client. The interview can then be scheduled, either in jail or after the client is released.
Booking logs typically have information only about recent arrests and this information is posted online for a short time (one day, three days, seven days). That means that someone could be in jail and not be on the booking log. If that is the case for your municipality, then you will need to check the booking log Web site often so that you won't miss clients or make regular visits to the jail to check their inmate list.
Below is a state-by-state list of counties that currently have Web-based jail inmate lists or booking logs. Additionally, you can access the Internet to determine whether a particular county has created a Web site that provides inmate-booking information since the publication of this manual. This can usually be accomplished by typing in the name of the county, followed by "Sheriff's Department" in the search window of any Internet search engine.
The following counties currently have Web-based jail inmate lists or booking logs:
Another umbrella site, Corrections.com, has an extensive listing of
Web sites for county sheriff/police departments. Not all departments
have their inmate lists posted. The site is on the Internet at:
If a client is on parole or probation, identify the region in which the client's supervision is occurring by calling the appropriate state office of the Department of Corrections or county probation office, and get the name of the officer in charge of the case. Contact the parole/probation officer and explain that a client of theirs is a participant in a federally funded or state funded health study and there is no current address or phone number for that person. Although occasionally the officer may divulge an address or phone number for the client, usually he or she will decline to do so for reasons of confidentiality. Frequently, however, the parole/probation officer will be willing to forward a letter from the evaluators to the client.
Do not divulge any personal information about the client to the parole/probation officer. Sometimes the officer will say: "I haven't seen him either for several months. I will call you if he shows up, and you call me if you find him, OK?" Do not make any agreements with others to violate study confidentiality.
A rap sheet may contain information on deportation proceedings for a client. People can be held in detention for months before they are deported and you may be able to complete your follow-up interview at a Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services detention center, so it is worthwhile to check on a client's current status. For more information on this topic, see Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, in Section 5.4.
Each county typically has its own jail system, which, in most cases, is run by that county's Sheriff's Department. When a person is arrested and sent to county jail, a booking number is assigned. This number is valid only in the county of incarceration. The booking number is not permanent and within a couple of weeks after release, the number cannot be traced back to a specific person. If a client is found in jail, you should conduct an interview as soon as possible. The reason is that people are not always held in jail for very long. The person can be arrested and not charged, post bond, or be released on his/her own recognizance. Although a county may have more than one jail, there is usually a central booking information number to call to get the location where the participant is incarcerated. You will need the participant's full name and date of birth or booking number, if you have it. If the participant is incarcerated, booking information staff can give you the current booking number of the client. You will need the booking number to conduct the interview at the jail.
Smaller departments will often let you use their attorney room on an as-needed basis. You provide your information to the watch commander of the jail you want to visit. If approved, he/she will let you know which day you can conduct the interview. Keep in mind that this process can take up to a week or longer. Larger departments often require you to secure attorney room privileges for their central jails first before actually scheduling the interview. Each department has different procedures, but all require a detailed explanation of the study and security measures for confidentiality.
When you find one of your clients in prison and you want to do an interview, you need to contact the prison to arrange it. If you are only doing a few prison interviews, get clearance for your staff on an as-needed basis. Typically, you contact the prison's public information officer (PIO). He/she will need information on the prisoner (full name and inmate identification number), information on your interviewer (e.g., full name, driver's license number, date of birth, any arrests), and the planned date of your visit. Be sure to let the PIO know that you will need to conduct the interview in an attorney interview room, and that your study has been cleared through the proper channels. This information is best sent in a fax (prisons generally don't have e-mail capability). Make sure your staff members know that they must be completely honest about any of their own arrests or convictions. Arrest and conviction history, if it is long enough ago, generally will not prevent staff from having prison access. However, some prisons will bar entry to anyone who has ever been convicted of drug trafficking. Prisons typically need around two weeks to obtain clearance.
Once a visit has been arranged, interviewers should call the PIO one to two days in advance of the visit to confirm that gate clearance is in place. Be sure that the interviewer has contact information because there often is a problem with clearance once he or she arrives. Prisons have dress codes for visitors (so that they may be distinguished from prisoners). Be sure that the interviewer checks the Web site and/or the recorded information for visitors via the prison phone number regarding these policies. Interview facilities vary greatly from one facility to another, but interviewers have to be prepared for the possibility of being locked in a room with the prisoner.
In some instances, clients who are incarcerated are not allowed to accept monetary payment for the interview. This is true for all clients in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system. In some institutions (not the Federal Bureau of Prisons, however), the client can designate someone to receive the payment on his or her behalf. The interviewer must record the recipient's name and address, and also have the client sign an amended receipt reflecting the name of the party receiving the payment.