The Booking Process, What to Expect

Anyone who has been to jail can attest to the fact that being arrested is a stressful ordeal. An arrest is often the beginning of a drawn out tribulation that can end in a loss of money, time and even freedom. Most people who go to jail the first time are completely clueless about the sequence of events that will take place during the booking process. Different jails may have a separate order in which these tasks are undertaken, but there are several things that a person must go through before being allowed to call their family or bail bond agent. Learn more about the bail bond process.

Initial Intake

Before being brought into a detention facility inmates are often subjected to a “pat down” to check for contraband. Once this is complete and the person is brought into the booking area, they are taken to an officer who enters all of their personal information into a computer. Information is also entered on the crime a person has been charged with. Usually at this time a person hands over all of their personal belongings as well. These items will be kept safe until a the inmate’s eventual release, and then returned. A check for outstanding warrants is also run at this time, and the results may affect whether a person is granted bail or not.

Protection of Officers and Inmates

There are several procedures involved during booking that are meant to keep officers, the inmate and other prisoners safe. The accused is often questioned about current or former gang affiliations. If the accused has been part of a gang then they may be housed, for their own protection, in an area where rival gang members are not present.

A short medical exam is also administered to ensure the safety and health of the inmate and fellow prisoners. If a person has a serious medical condition the officers will be able to accommodate them while protecting other prisoners from possibly contagious diseases. Depending on the jail, these exams can even include tuberculosis checks. Inmates are also made to take a shower with delousing shampoo and sometimes strip-searched before they are sent into the general population.


Police gather an abundance of information that can help identify an inmate. This is used for their time in jail as well as being kept on record for any future need that may arise. A suspect is always photographed and fingerprinted, usually soon after they arrive to the facility. In certain cases an inmate can even be required to submit to a DNA test. All of this information can legally be kept on file and used in the future to identify a known subject.

The Phone call

Most people who are arrested spend their entire booking process looking forward to getting their phone call. Unfortunately, whether a person is subsequently found innocent or guilty of a crime makes no difference in the booking process. Jails will differ from state to state and even county to county, but the basic booking process is essentially the same and it takes the time that is deemed necessary to do so.

In most jails an inmate must go through the entire booking process before they are allowed to make their first phone call. At that point it is important to call someone who can post bail such as a family member or bail bond agent, thus ensuring a quick release.

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