What Is the Jail Booking Process?
The following steps outline a typical booking process, though steps may slightly vary according to location and jurisdiction:
- Upon arrival, paperwork must be processed. Detailed personal information like a name, DOB, social security number, place of residence, employer, medical information, etc., is requested and filed.
- Photos (called “mug shots”) of the defendant are then taken as physical documentation of the defendant at the time of arrest. It is also useful to protect against mistaken identity (especially between individuals with the same name), or identity theft while in jail. Multiple photos for each defendant are printed simultaneously for different uses – like photo identification for name tags, files, and cell tags.
- One’s property must be clearly cataloged for safe keeping. Prisoners are not able to carry wallets, money, cell phones, etc. into jail. Thus, all personal property items are removed and placed in a plastic bag to secure belongings. To make sure all items are accounted for, prisoners are requested to sign off on the list of items detailed after they have been sealed.
- Fingerprinting is necessary to help with not only the identification of the prisoner, but also to compare to any evidence left at a crime scene, and to enter it into the federal database. The defendant’s information is then checked against the national database for any additional warrants and/or arrest history.
- A body search is required to make sure prisoners are not carrying any contraband into the prison. The “strip search” can be an embarrassing experience to have to undergo. They are administered by same-sex jail personnel, and are typically performed on individuals who will be held in prison.
- Health screening is necessary for the well-being of both the prison staff and those incarcerated. Defendants are checked for any communicable diseases with blood work, and/or x-rays before joining the general population of prisoners.
- If the defendant is to be held, he or she will be allowed to shower and dress in prison clothing and placed in with the general population. However, if the defendant is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs – he or she will be placed in a separate holding area under careful observation until sobriety is reached.
The jail booking process can vary in duration. Providing clear information can speed up the process, as can keeping one’s cool and having a decent attitude, despite the situation.