Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “criminals”

Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspective for Investigators

Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspective for Investigators – http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How is serial murder defined?
  • How does the FBI deal with media in serial murder cases?
  • Why is it important for law enforcement to know traits of psychopathic behavior?


This publication was put out by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the inspiration for the series Criminal Minds. The report contains the following sections plus introductory material and appendices:

  • II. Definition of Serial Murder
  • III. Causality and the Serial Murderer
  • IV. Psychopathy and Serial Murder
  • V. Motivations & Types of Serial Murder: Symposium Model
  • VI. Investigative Issues and Best Practices
  • VII. Forensic Issues in Serial Murder Cases
  • VIII. Prosecution of Serial Murder Cases
  • IX. Media Issues in Serial Murder Investigations
  • X. Issues Regarding Talking Heads in the Media

This report seems like it would be helpful in adding realistic touches to serial killers and to the investigators charged with finding them.


Prisoner Locator Tools for Describing Characters

Prisoner Locator Tools

If you’re writing about a prisoner or an ex-con and want to add some details about his criminal history and appearance, you might consider using a state prisoner locator tool. A number of states have prisoner lookups. Some are very terse, only offering a name and a prison. Some states are richer in their information displays. Here are a few worth exploring:

Arkansas – Inmate Population Information Finder    http://adc.arkansas.gov/inmate_info/index.php


Prisoner database that can be searched not only by name, gender, age and race, but also by type of crime including: Assault, Drug Crime, Forgery/Counterfeiting, Fraud/Embezzlement, Kidnapping, Manslaughter, Murder, Other Crime, Other Violent Crime, Property Crime, Racketeering, Robbery, Sex Crime, Theft, Weapon Offense. Records include weight, height, sentencing history and prisoner photos when available.

Georgia – Inmate Query


Prisoners may be searched by name, aliases, gender, age, primary offense (incl abuse of gov’t office), sentence status, conviction county and more. Prisoner records include photos, offense details, project release dates, and aliases and identifying marks when available.

Kansas – Offender Population Search


Many fields available to search for offenders. Includes inmate information, including photos and offense history.

Search Tips:

If unsure how to start searching, use “smith” as a last name. Sometimes that will bring up too many results. In that case, add “john” as a first name and that ought provide a reasonable number of hits to walk through. For brooding characters with relatively common names, searching by a character name may produce additional food for thought.
If you’re trying to describe a criminal, try searching by type of offense. This can be good for “I expected a rapist to look like ________, not like this guy.”

To find more online inmate locator tools, visit the Prisoner Locator Tools list maintained by the ALA Government Documents Roundtable at

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