In 2020, 17 inmates were executed in the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) Capital Punishment reports present characteristics of persons under sentence of death and persons executed, and summarize the movement of prisoners into and out of death sentence status. See Prisoners executed under civil authority in the United States, by year, region, and jurisdiction for additional data on executions.
Compared to jail facilities, prisons are longer-term facilities owned by a state or by the federal government. Prisons typically hold felons and persons with sentences of more than 1 year. However, sentence length may vary by state. Six states (i.e., Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, Alaska, and Hawaii) have an integrated correctional system that combines jails and prisons. There are a small number of private prisons, facilities that are run by private prison corporations whose services and beds are contracted out by state or federal governments. See the Terms & Definitions section.
According to the 2016 BJS Law Enforcement and Management Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, about 9 in 10 local police departments authorized their patrol officers to carry pepper spray (91% of agencies) and a baton (89% of agencies). An estimated 88% of departments authorized the use of conducted energy devices (CED) weapons such as Tasers or stun guns.
A list of federally recognized tribes in the U.S. is available at https://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/biaind.pdf.
As with any specialized field, criminal justice has specific terms to convey specific ideas. Persons under correctional supervision are those on probation or parole or held in prison or jail. This definition casts the widest net when seeking the number under some sort of correctional surveillance.
Persons incarcerated include those in state or federal prisons or local jails. This is the population most often cited when asked how many people in the United States are behind lock and key. BJS publishes an imprisonment rate for the number of prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction sentenced to more than 1 year in prison per 100,000 U.S. residents. The incarceration rate is the number per 100,000 U.S. residents of inmates held in the custody of local jails, state or federal prisons, or privately operated facilities. (More information about jurisdiction and custody counts can be found here.)
BJS also has a total incarceration count that includes those held in state and federal prisons, local jails, Indian country jails, U.S territory facilities, military facilities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, and juvenile facilities.
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No. The total homicide count includes all types of intentional homicide and involuntary manslaughter as ruled by a medical examiner or other official medical investigation. The total includes homicides committed by inmates. It also includes homicides as a result of staff use of force, such as positional asphyxia, or suffocation caused by the position of the inmate's body, while the inmate is being removed from a cell. It includes legal-intervention homicides (e.g., an inmate is shot in the process of escape). The count also includes deaths caused by events prior to incarceration (e.g., an inmate was shot during an altercation on the street and dies from complications of the gunshot wound while incarcerated).
BJS began to collect mortality data from state prisons, local jails, and local and state law enforcement agencies in 2000 in response to the Congressional enactment of the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA, P.L. 106-297). Through its Mortality in Institutional Corrections (MCI) collection, BJS obtained data on deaths that occurred in the custody of local jails from 2000 to 2019 and state prisons from 2001 to 2019. Deaths that occurred in the process of arrest by law enforcement agencies were collected from 2003 to 2009, and a redesigned methodology was tested in 2015 and 2016.
Federal agencies were not included in the 2000 DICRA law, but BJS collected summary statistics on persons who died in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) through 2014. After the reauthorization of DICRA in 2013 (P.L. 113-242), which included a requirement to collect data from federal agencies, BJS began obtaining individual-level death data from the BOP, as well as from other federal agencies with law enforcement responsibilities.
The 2013 DICRA reauthorization expanded the original 2000 law to include additional enforcement and compliance requirements for local and state law enforcement agencies, jails, and prisons. As a federal statistical agency and consistent with its authorizing legislation, BJS may only use the data it collects or maintains under its authority for statistical purposes, which excludes enforcement and compliance activities. Consequently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) determined that BJS's MCI collection did not meet the 2013 DICRA requirements. DOJ decided that it would be more appropriate for the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to administer the program and collect mortality data for DOJ starting with quarter 1 (Q1) of fiscal year (FY) 2019 (October to December 2019). State departments of corrections (DOC), local jails, and law enforcement agencies will now report their death information on a quarterly basis to centralized state agencies, who will compile and submit this to BJA to comply with all applicable DICRA requirements. Federal agencies, including the BOP, will continue to report deaths that occur in their custody to BJS.
The Prisoners bulletin series provides state-level data on prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities. Also, see the State and Federal Prisoners, Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool (CSAT), and Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center (FJSRC) sections of the BJS website for further information and data.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization. Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of 90,000 households, comprising nearly 160,000 persons on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. The NCVS collects information on nonfatal personal crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, and personal larceny) and household property crimes (burglary, motor vehicle theft, and other theft) both reported and not reported to police. Survey respondents provide information about themselves (e.g., age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, marital status, education level, and income) and whether they experienced a victimization. For each victimization incident, the NCVS collects information about the offender (e.g., age, race and Hispanic origin, sex, and victim-offender relationship), characteristics of the crime (including time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury, and economic consequences), whether the crime was reported to police, reasons the crime was or was not reported, and victim experiences with the criminal justice system.
Caution must be used when using trend data, as definitions and reporting capabilities change over time. Some changes in definitions are due to BJS initiatives to improve counting (such as separating out state inmates held in private facilities or local jails), some may be driven by the Office of Management and Budget (such as changes in racial and ethnic definitions), and some may be noted by the reported jurisdiction (such as noncitizen inmate counts, including those who were foreign-born).
Whenever possible, BJS notes these differences and encourages users to check footnotes within tables and jurisdiction notes within reports to better understand why comparability can vary from state-to-state or year-to-year.
Note: When you see a sharp increase or decline in a year-to-year count, it is recommended to verify there was no change in definition or counting method.