What Does “Number of Holds” Mean in Jail?

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There are instances where inmates in jail can’t be released despite completing their sentences. You may be surprised to know that people can remain in prison because of a process called jail or prison hold.

What is a jail hold, and what does “number of holds” mean when it involves people behind bars?

This article tackles the meaning of a jail or prison hold and what it means to an incarcerated person. It also discusses the purpose of bail and bonds and how it affects a prisoner with a hold order.

Furthermore, this article examines other jail information and terminology definitions to help you better understand the criminal justice system and further assist your loved one behind bars.

If you need more information about the different prison and jail facilities in the United States, visit LookUpInmate.org. Our website provides a vast database of over 7,000 correctional facilities nationwide. 

What Does a Hold Mean in Jail or Prison?

A hold order is a notice or reminder to a correctional facility not to release an inmate from incarceration even if they served their sentence in full.

Sometimes, more than one warrant is issued against an inmate. These warrants or cases may come from other states or jurisdictions, which results in a prisoner’s delay from release.

So, the number of holds a prisoner is the number of legal impediments a prisoner needs to settle before getting released from jail or prison.

Another similar type of hold is a detainer or a notice to law enforcement officers and the correctional facility that an inmate has other pending charges that must be resolved before being allowed release.

What Is a Federal Hold?

One example of a prison hold placed on an inmate is a federal hold.

A federal hold is a notice from the federal government that it is interested in a specific prisoner because of the possibility of bringing more charges.

In addition, the government places a federal hold on potentially dangerous inmates nearing their release date.

The federal hold is placed to secure their incarceration, despite their ability to post bail. A defendant with a federal hold can’t be released even if they can pay bonds or bail for a state case.

What Does “Intake Hold Charge” Mean?

An intake hold charge is an accusation of a minor criminal offense charged against someone so that the inmate can be held in jail until more severe charges are investigated or prepared.

Another purpose of an intake hold charge is to keep an inmate under hold because of a warrant of arrest in another jurisdiction.

A hold can prevent the release of that particular inmate even if they post bail or have completed their sentence. The hold will ensure that the inmate will face the next set of criminal charges in a future court date.

What Does “No Active Holds” Mean?

Before a prisoner is set free, the prison authorities check whether the inmate has any holds or detainers that might delay a jail release.

Prison authorities need to verify that the prisoner has no other pending charges before they can be sure that the prisoner has no active holds. Prisoners with no active holds have no reason for the delayed release and are set free once applicable.

What Is a Hold Agency?

A holding agency is any agency (federal or state) with accountability over a person kept under hold. The holding agency keeps an inmate in jail during the entire length of the hold order.

If an inmate is released while a hold order is in effect, the holding agency will face accountability issues. If you have a loved one in this situation, it’s best to contact a lawyer to help you through this legal ordeal.

What Is “Release Hold per Agency”?

A “release hold per agency” implies an inmate has another warrant or criminal charge in another state or jurisdiction.

An inmate is kept behind bars or is escorted to another holding agency to face the next batch of charges filed against them.

An inmate with a release hold can’t be set free even if they post bail or have fully served their sentence.

Should You Post Bail?

When a person is arrested, and charges are filed, the judge will determine if the arrestee is eligible for release through bail. An arrestee is likely eligible if they don’t pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

Suppose your loved one is an arrestee. You can pay the bail and have the defendant released and enjoy three main benefits:

  • They’ll have an opportunity to continue working despite the legal process.
  • They can stay with their family and have time to prepare for eventualities.
  • They can use the time to talk with their lawyer and prepare a defense when they face the judge at the given court date.

To better understand bail and bonds, here are the definitions and differences of these terms.

  • Bail is the money paid to secure a temporary release of a person arrested for a criminal charge. In most cases, bail for minor crimes like misdemeanors has a schedule showing the bail amount before a court appearance or arraignment.

For severe criminal cases, the bail amount depends on the judge. However, bail is not always available, especially for violent crimes like murder or treason or if the defendant has a high risk of fleeing the law or endangering public safety.

If the defendant can’t pay the bail amount, there is an option to pay through bonds.

  • A bond is different from bail because of who pays the bond amount. A defendant or their family members can seek a bail bonds agent.

The agent will post the entire amount for a nonrefundable fee paid by the family member or defendant. The nonrefundable fee is usually 10% of the bail amount.

How Long Can a County Jail Hold an Inmate for Another County in the U.S.?

The jail hold process to keep an inmate for another county is a bit complex. The state issuing the warrant can demand the transport of a  prisoner currently arrested in another state or county jail.

If approved, the prisoner is brought to the demanding state or county to comply with the court order and enter their plea. Once the legal proceedings are over, the prisoner is returned to the initial jail or prison.

Afterward, details of where the inmate is to be housed are discussed between the original jail or prison where the inmate is housed and the issuing jurisdiction.

State jurisdictions vary, and each state has its own rules and regulations about jail holds.

For instance, in Florida, a person can be held in prison without a charge for up to 30 days. If no one files a criminal charge, the jail will release the detained individual on the 33rd day.

There are instances where an inmate gets detained for over 33 days. A state prosecutor can submit pertinent reasons to extend the detention of an inmate, even without charges, up to 40 days. If no one files a charge by then, the inmate is released.

How Long Can Someone Be Held in Jail for a Warrant From Another State?

As described earlier, states have different areas of responsibility or jurisdictions, including law enforcement activities. If a person jailed in one state has an outstanding warrant in another, a prison hold can be placed on an inmate for the state that issued a warrant.

The demanding state will initially have 30 days to pick up the inmate. However, there may be instances where the hold can last longer than 30 days, depending on the circumstances, such as the severity of the crime, additional investigations, and jurisdictional issues.

What It Takes to Hold a Suspect in Jail Before Trial in U.S.

In pretrial detention, an individual is arrested and kept in jail before a trial. However, various state laws may have slight differences in their policies regarding pretrial detention.

For instance, in Washington, once a person is arrested with probable cause and reviewed by an independent judge within 48 hours, the prosecutor must file charges.

The prosecutor has a time limit of 72 hours to file a charge, or it will result in the arrestee‘s release. However, the 72-hour computation doesn’t include Saturdays and Sundays.

What Happens After Someone Gets Arrested

During the arrest period, the judge will determine whether the inmate is eligible for release through personal recognizance or bail.

Personal recognizance means a release from arrest without the need to post bail. It’s based on a written promise by the arrestee to appear in a state or federal court on a given date.

Once the judge determines that the arrestee is eligible for bail or released under their own recognizance, the arrestee fulfills the requirements and is set free from jail.

However, if the crime committed is severe and the arrestee is determined to be a possible threat to public safety, bail may be denied.

Jail Information and Definitions

Having a loved one or a family member behind bars is always a challenging experience. Seeing someone dear to you get handcuffed and arrested by police officers, held in a county jail, and spend day and night behind bars can be traumatic.

To lessen the impact of such an event, you need information about the country’s jail system, understand the terminology, and know what you may expect when someone you love ends up behind bars.

Property or Money Releases

During an arrest, the police department confiscates any personal property or cash the arrestee is carrying. However, an inmate can release their property or money to anyone, including a public defender, caseworker, or probation officer.

The inmate must fill out a Department of Corrections (DOC) release form to allow all booked-in properties to be released to a designated person or to anyone who asks for it.

It’s recommended that the inmate completes this form before they’re sent to a federal or state prison. If no one claims the booked-in items after 30 days, the inmate’s personal property is destroyed.

Inmates can release the booked-in cash into an inmate account within 72 hours without approval. Requests made after the 72-hour window will require approval by the jail commander, warden, or a designee.

How to Place Money on the Books of an Inmate

Placing money on an inmate’s books means depositing money in an inmate’s account to allow purchases in the prison’s commissary.

Prison terminology uses “money on the books” as an idiom for an inmate account because incarcerated individuals cannot have physical cash behind bars. Actual cash is considered contraband in virtually all correctional facilities in the United States.

To send money to a loved one behind bars, you must contact the jail or prison where your loved one is. You’ll need to know the preferred way of depositing money.

Most prisons allow electronic money transfers via third-party providers like JPay and Western Union. You can also send funds via money order through the Postal Service.

Remember that correctional facilities, from sheriff’s offices to federal penitentiaries, don’t accept personal checks.

Medication Questions

Let’s say an arrestee has a medical condition or needs medical supervision during their arrest. In that case, they must report their situation to the prison’s medical staff upon initial booking.

The arrestee must declare their current medical condition and let the prison’s medical staff know the types of medication they need, including the dosage.

Note that medicine purchased outside of prison is not allowed. The prison’s medical pharmacy is the place to buy medication inside a correctional facility.

Marriage in Jail

Love knows no bounds and can blossom and thrive even in dire situations. Even in the coldest prison cell, love can still ignite.

Marriage in jail is allowed but with restrictions.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that incarceration doesn’t remove an inmate’s constitutional right to marry. However, like marriage done outside prison, it involves preparation and paperwork.

Although rules in jails and prisons in different states differ, the basic process resembles the traditional steps a couple must take to be married.

  • The inmate should submit a marriage request. They can get a request form from their correctional facility.
  • Prison officials will check the inmate’s eligibility for marriage to ensure that they don’t have any legal impediments like being already married or having common-law marriages before going to prison.
  • Prison officials will check the inmate’s mental health and competence by checking their records.
  • Prison authorities will conduct a final safety determination before the marriage request approval. They need to ensure that the marriage won’t threaten the safety of the facility and the people inside.

Once these determinations are done, a prison official will contact and inform the couple if the marriage is approved.

If the prison authorities deny the couple’s marriage request, they’ll explain why. If approved, the couple can start planning their marriage ceremony.

The marriage venue may depend on the inmate’s status. They can set the marriage outside prison if the prisoner can request a “furlough” or an authorized temporary release from jail.

However, when a “furlough” is impossible, the marriage can be done inside the facility, officiated by the Bureau of Prison’s chaplain.

Intake or Release Procedures

Once an inmate is arrested, the person goes into an intake process. Unlike some scenes you may have seen in movies, an arrestee doesn’t go directly to a state or federal prison.

The intake process is a slow, deliberate, and careful process of integrating an inmate into the prison system.

  • The inmate is detained in jail after an arrest and during litigation.
  • After sentencing, the inmate is taken to the prison specified by the judge.
  • The prisoner undergoes medical examinations, psychological determination, drug tests, and interviews.
  • Finally, the prisoner attends an orientation of facility rules and regulations and is brought to the housing area for incarceration.

Meanwhile, the release process for prisoners is a bit more complicated. After all, the U.S. government wouldn’t carelessly release prisoners without ensuring public safety.

The release process includes the following steps.

  • The release process starts when the jail receives a court order to release a prisoner.
  • A 48-hour window starts at midnight when the court sends a release order to the incarceration facility. The release process happens in that two-day window.
  • A final review is done before release. The inmate’s medical needs, property, and remaining money in the inmate’s account are checked and released to the inmate.
  • The jail or prison then provides a service to ensure a smooth reentry process for the released inmate.

In some prisons, the release process starts way before the release date. The reason for this is to prepare the inmate for release. In some cases, inmates undergo work release programs that give them a chance to work outside a prison in preparation for their eventual release.


Prisoners’ nutritional needs are among the crucial needs the BOP and the DOC constantly provide. Correctional facilities provide three meals daily (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

The menu may differ daily, but it mainly revolves around cereal, milk, chicken meals, tacos, hamburgers, hotdogs, and other filling menus. Prison food is prepared and cooked by prisoners assigned to kitchen duty.

Although prisoners may not have the food they want, prison facilities ensure they get the daily sustenance they need.

Food Boxes

A food box is similar to a care package, which a loved one purchases from a third-party provider and sends directly to an inmate behind bars.

An example of this is the canteen package program in Louisiana. The state’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections has provided a list of pre-approved items family members can order for their loved ones behind bars. Prices for these bundles range from $20 to $200.

Other similar programs exist in different correctional facilities. If you need contact information on the correctional facility where your loved one is held, you can visit LookUpInmate.org.

Eye Glasses

Prisoners may develop vision problems inside prison due to natural causes. In this case, an inmate can order prescription glasses, although not from any eyeglasses store.

Prisons provide access to third-party eyewear providers, which can help inmates get corrective lenses to improve their vision while behind bars. However, the materials used for prison eyeglasses are different as they’re mostly made from acetate and plastic.


Prison clergy or chaplains are part of the rehabilitation process inside incarceration facilities. The practice of religion is not prohibited inside prisons.

The right to freedom of religion is observed even behind bars as it’s part of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Car Impounds

There are instances where your loved one’s crime is a DUI (driving under the influence) charge. A DUI is a crime where a person operates a vehicle despite being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

So, what happens to the vehicle after the apprehension and arrest?

  • The vehicle may be towed to an impound lot.
  • An officer may drive the vehicle to the police station and call the inmate’s family member to pick it up.
  • The inmate may be allowed by law enforcement to make a phone call to a family member while on-scene to pick up the vehicle.
  • The vehicle may be left where it is to be picked up by the inmate, especially if the arrest is expected to be brief.

Suppose the vehicle is considered part of the evidence, totaled or damaged, or no other family member can retrieve it. In that case, the vehicle is automatically towed and impounded.

Bonds and Fines

Bonds differ from fines simply because bonds are not intended as punishment, while fines are penalties. A bond is posted on the defendant’s behalf, typically by a bail bonds company, to secure a release.

Bail or bonds are the court’s way to ensure the defendant’s presence in a court hearing despite being given the chance to be released from prison.

On the other hand, fines are penalties with specific amounts paid by the offender to the government. The amount of fines depends on the type and severity of the crime committed.

Video Visitation Information

Video visitation is a service a prison facility provides to help foster communication between inmates and their loved ones. In states like Pennsylvania, video visitations are a free service. However, this may not be the case in other states.

Inmate Mail

If you want to send letters to a loved one behind bars, you’ll most likely send them via the Postal Service.

You must adhere to the rules and regulations imposed by a correctional facility concerning letters. Examples of these rules are the following:

  • Don’t use markers, crayons, glue, stickers, or glitter when writing your letter.
  • Don’t use paper clips or staples.
  • Don’t use scents or perfumes in your letter.
  • Don’t use symbols or drawings that look like secret codes.
  • Don’t write anything too personal or private. Prison officials inspect prison mail before sending them to the inmate. 

Child Custody and DCS Involvement

When one parent goes to jail, the other parent may get custody of the children, although this may not always be true. The judge can determine who will get custody of the children and may seek the help of agencies like the Department of Child Safety (DCS).

The Department of Child Safety is a state agency that helps keep children safe by working cooperatively with parents and guardians. The DCS in different states balances children’s legal rights to live in a healthy and safe environment and that of the parents.

Community Information and Referral

In states like Arizona, a community information and referral program helps people with needs contact help providers. Programs inmates may find useful, especially after release, are the ones provided for homeless individuals. Similar programs are also available in other states.

Upon release, an inmate brings with them their criminal history. This record of wrongs can hinder their progress in rebuilding their lives.

Family members should help their previously incarcerated loved ones secure jobs or guide them to these outreach programs focused on ex-inmates needing assistance as they reenter society.

Food Stamps

Upon release, many previously incarcerated people find it challenging to rebuild their lives. It’s at this point that an ex-prisoner needs help the most.

More than 600,000 people are released from prison every year, and not all of them can quickly bounce back and start life anew. The government helps them by issuing food stamps.

The SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously the Food Stamp Program, is an ongoing support infrastructure providing essential food assistance for formerly incarcerated individuals.

A release from prison is a momentous event for a person behind bars. However, it can also be a frightening experience, as society isn’t keen to forget the past mistakes of reformed criminals.

In this situation, support from people who care is crucial, and they should always be ready to help inmates regain their lives after prison.

If you need any contact information or phone numbers of correctional institutions nationwide, visit LookUpInmate.org.

Our website helps you connect with inmates in over 7,000 prisons and jails in the U.S. You only need the inmate’s full name and DOC number to use the inmate locator.


  1. Hold Order [Prison Law] Law and Legal Definition
  2. Holding Agency Law and Legal Definition
  3. In Jail | Charges or Release | A Criminal Defense Lawyer |Attorney’s Perspective on the 72 Hour Rule.
  4. own recognizance (OR)
  5. TURNER v. SAFLEY, 482 U.S. 78 (1987)
  6. Chaplains: God’s Partners in Prison
  7. Driving under the influence (DUI)
  8. Bail, Bonds, and Relevant Legal Concerns
  9. Inmate Visitation

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