Jail Release

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An estimated 10,000 prisoners are processed for prison or jail release every week. However, seeing inmates get out of prison results from a long, tedious process of corrections and rehabilitation. Many people only see the tail end of this system, which is the day an inmate gets free from incarceration.

This article discusses the jail and prison release process and how inmates are prepared for reentry into society. Furthermore, this piece gives an overview of life after prison and the possible challenges inmates may face once free. 

Getting released from prison is not a simple matter. You must secure your documents if you’re an inmate ready for freedom. You can visit LookUpInmate.org and get your records from any correctional facility in the country. 

Incarcerated Individual Discharge

Getting discharged or released from jail isn’t simply opening the gates of a prison and letting an inmate out. Getting discharged is a process that starts weeks or even months before the inmate’s release date

When an incarcerated individual is set for discharge, it triggers a multi-step process that prepares the inmate, the prison facility, and the community for the reentry of a person under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) or Department of Corrections (DOC). 

Inmate Release Procedures

Inmate release is a multi-step process involving many people and agencies in the U.S. criminal justice system. 

The inmate release process starts with the determination of the release date. Generally, the highest-ranking official determines who goes home from prison. 

The responsibility falls on the attorney general for federal prisons. Meanwhile, the state governors and state attorney generals have authority over state prisons

Here are the following procedures for inmate release:

1. Complete release preparations: The BOP starts the release preparations 18 months before the scheduled release date. Let’s say you are an inmate nearing your release. In that case, you should start doing the following:

  • Prepare your résumé or C.V. (curriculum vitae) 
  • Secure letters of recommendation if possible
  • Inform family and friends of your release
  • Reactive your Social Security Account through the help of a case manager
  • Request your medical records

You can also ask your lawyer or your loved one to help you get needed documents during this preparation period or after your release. You can visit LookUpInmate.org to get access to documents like arrest records, case proceedings, and other legal documents related to your incarceration. 

One repercussion of going to jail or prison is having a public record marred with a criminal history that may limit your ability to get a job, rent a house, or exercise rights protected by the Constitution, like owning firearms. You may need legal advice and prepare all your documents when needed. 

2. Transfer to pre-release custody: Before an inmate gets released, they’re placed in custody that will prepare them for freedom. If you’re an inmate intended for release, understand that prisons rarely let inmates leave and go straight to their homes. 

In pre-release custody, you may be transferred to another prison or placed in a community corrections center or in-home confinement. You are finally released after ultimately serving your sentence and can reenter society. 

3. Supervised release: Sometimes, people become eligible for supervised release, where an inmate is allowed to serve the remainder of their sentence outside of prison but under the supervision of the United States Probation Office. 

Supervised release is a hybrid of probation and parole in the federal system. This supervision setup replaced the federal parole system, which ended in 1987, through the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. 

The aim of the BOP or DOC for allowed supervised release is to help prisoners ease into society. Some inmates have served long sentences, which may have alienated them from society. 

The government can still guide prisoners through this system to ensure they won’t return to prison for committing another offense. 

4. Full release: Once everything mentioned above is completed, the court finally releases an inmate. If you’re an inmate who reached this point, congratulations. You won’t need to report to any supervision officer for the DOC and BOP. You’re now free to carve a new and better path in life. 

Release Assessment (Jail)

So far, the process discussed earlier in this article shows the release procedures for federal and state prisons. In the case of municipal and county jails, the release process of inmates starts with an assessment. 

The Jail Release section does the assessment, which ensures that all inmates under its jurisdiction get to court, are sentenced, and have their release processed expeditiously. 

The Jail Release section performs these assessments by doing inmate interviews. These interviews build a clear background history of the inmate to determine the conditions for their release. 

The Jail Release section will relay any information the judge needs to decide whether an inmate can post bail or, if no bail is required, be released on their own recognizance

Recognizance is a promise made by the defendant in court to do a specified condition or incur a fine or penalty.

48-Hour Windows

When the release order arrives, the jail authorities have a 48-hour window to release an inmate. The 48-hour window starts at midnight of the day the release order is sent from the courts to the respective jail.

48-Hour Exception

Every rule has an exception, and this is also true with the 48-window for inmate release. If the inmate is posted on bond or bail, the incarcerated individual gets released within three hours of receiving the necessary documents. 

Before Release

Similar to prison release, jail release is also a multi-step process that includes considerable preparation to help inmates adapt to society. 

Here are some of the standard procedures done by most law enforcement officers managing a jail before an inmate’s release. 

The following is an example of Nevada County, California jail release procedures. Jails in other counties may have similar policies with a few changes according to the circumstances in their jurisdictions. 

  • Check and verify the inmate’s identity
  • Check and verify that all release documents are present
  • Check and verify if the inmates have any detainers or outstanding warrants
  • Check whether a qualified healthcare professional cleared the inmate
  • Conduct cell inspection to check if there are any damages present
  • Release all personal property and funds
  • Have the inmate sign all release forms
  • Inform the inmate of any future court dates, if applicable
  • Have the inmate change into civilian clothes
  • Give the inmate provision to make calls to loved ones or friends
  • Release the inmate from incarceration or transport to a health center if needed

Jail Release Services

It’s crucial for good support for inmates to ensure the success of the incarceration system. In jails like in New York, release services can help people secure the following:

  • Assistance in obtaining job employment opportunities
  • Help to get home rentals or mortgages
  • Access to treatment programs
  • Assistance in seeking legal services

Jail release services may vary in different county and municipal jails. However, in most cases, the list stated above is present in most jails.

Other services may include community resources services, organizations that help people with disabilities, and support groups that handle cases of domestic violence and other felony crimes. 

Inmates can also get information on possible volunteer opportunities, especially if they feel the urge to share their positive experiences with others still awaiting their turn to get released and change their lives. 

What Is Being Released From Jail Called?

Going to prison or jail carries many consequences that may last even after being released. One of these consequences is how these people are addressed or called. 

Knowing the correct terms for people released from prison is crucial in a society where correct labels are important. 

  • Ex-convict or ex-con: This is one of the usual terms used for people who have been released from prison or are under parole. 

The term now has a somewhat negative connotation, so people become wary when someone near them is labeled an ex-convict.

  • Ex-felon: A felon is someone who committed a felony or a severe crime. An ex-felon is someone who got released from a felony conviction. The term also has a negative connotation to some. 
  • Ex-prisoner or ex-offender: These terms reveal an individual’s history as a lawbreaker, violator, or offender. 

What Time Do Inmates Get Released?

Prisons and jails can’t just release inmates anytime they want. There are prescribed times when inmates should be released. Here is an example of a state law defining when an inmate can get released. 

The following example comes from 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 267.6, a Texas code detailing the release process of inmates:

  1. A facility can release an inmate from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM on the day of the inmate’s release or discharge.
  2. A facility can credit up to 18 hours of jail time and release the inmate a day before the exact release date, provided it’s between 6:00 AM and 5:00 PM.
  3. A facility can only release an inmate after 5:00 PM if the situation falls under the following circumstances:
    • When the inmate has posted bail or bonds
    • When the inmate requests or agrees to be released after 5:00 PM or before 6:00 AM
    • When the inmate has an existing arrest warrant from another county and has to be released to execute the warrant
    • When the inmate has a medical or mental health condition that requires hospitalization or admission to a mental health facility

How Do You Find Out if Someone Is in Jail?

The United States has the largest prison population in the country. It has over 7,000 correctional facilities that house more than two million people. 

Despite this massive number of inmates, you can find a facility’s inmate roster information through various locators online. 

But before you search for inmates online, you need the following information to make your search easier:

  • The inmate’s full name
  • The inmate’s date of birth
  • The inmate’s identification number

Here are some of the places where you can go to find out where someone is in prison or jail:

  • State’s Department of Corrections: You can request information from the DOC regarding inmates in the state’s prison or local jails. Each state has its DOC, which you can visit whenever you need this information. 

State offices typically cater to requests during administrative office hours, usually 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Also, some jails and prisons have non-emergency hotlines for these inquiries. 

  • Bureau of Prisons inmate locator: The BOP provides an inmate locator to make searching easier. You can also know when the inmate is released or is supposed to be released.
  • LookUpInmate.org: This website gives you access to more than 7,000 correctional facilities nationwide. You can search by state or county and find each facility’s contact information. 

You can type in an inmate’s name or number and get results. 

For example, if you want to know if Raymundo Juarez Gutierrez is incarcerated in California, you’ll just type the full name or the prisoner’s identification number.

Once the system shows a match, the search page gives you a link that will take you directly to the prison and its roster. 

There are also apps you can download that have access to the criminal records database provided by the federal and state governments. 

What Happens After Prisoners Are Released?

Some prisoners experience what you call “post-incarceration syndrome.” This syndrome is a mental health issue involving depression, anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Post-incarceration syndrome can negatively affect a person’s life if left untreated. 

If you’re feeling this kind of problem, it’s best to seek help and contact various organizations that focus on helping recently released people cope with society. You can visit the following organizations that provide reentry programs for inmates released from prison:

Life after prison is a time to restart, rebuild, and recover from the past mistakes a person has committed. If you’re in this situation after serving a long time behind bars, having the chance to taste freedom is a life-changing experience that one mustn’t waste. 


1. Prisoners and Prisoner Re-Entry
2. What Is Federal Supervised Release?
3. Incarcerated Persons Release Procedures
4. Incarcerated Individual Discharge
5. Jail Release Services
6. 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 267.6
7. Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023
8. How to look up prisoners and prison records

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