The Data Collections section of the BJS website provides information about and links to the different surveys developed and used by BJS. To locate those that specifically focus on corrections, see the Data Collections - Corrections section of the BJS site.
BJS included an opioid addendum in the 2019 Census of Jails and released a report on this topic.
Data collections vary in scope, burden, and frequency of collection (see individual data collection descriptions for more information). Generally, BJS collects data both from administrative records and from interviews with prison and jail inmates. All data collections must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) prior to fielding, which takes several months. Collections must be resubmitted for approval every 3 years (sooner if there are changes in the data collection). For data that are collected through inmate interviews, there must also be an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to protect human subjects (prior to OMB submission), and individual jurisdictions may require additional reviews prior to participation.
All data collection is voluntary. Without a specific mandate by Congress, no jurisdiction is compelled to participate in our data collections; individual surveys are conducted only with persons granting formal consent to participate. Most jurisdictions choose to participate because the information is helpful for policy and practice and may be used to allocate funding. It takes time to achieve a complete enumeration, particularly in times of staff shortages and budget cuts in many levels of government.
Administrative collections are sent out close to the reference date in the survey and are due to BJS 2 to 3 months later. Most respondents submit the data on time, but for various reasons, other jurisdictions take longer to submit the data. BJS staff or contractor staff work with jurisdictions to obtain the necessary information, which can take an additional 3 months.
After data are collected, they must then be cleaned, weighted (in the case of sample populations), and analyzed. BJS staff has several methods of release, including a formal report, statistical/electronic tables, or a summary brief. All data are fully verified prior to release. Keeping in mind that each data collection is different and the times may vary significantly depending on the collection of interest, provided below is an average data collection and processing timetable:
Collection, 5–6 months (from reference date) for administrative surveys; 8–12 for interview surveys
Cleaning/weighting, 1–2 months for administrative surveys; 3–6 for interview surveys
Analysis/verification, 2–12 months, depending on survey type and complexity of analysis
Preparation to disseminate, 2–3 months
Jails are locally operated short-term facilities that hold inmates awaiting trial or sentencing or both, and inmates sentenced to a term of less than 1 year, typically misdemeanants. Prisons are longer-term facilities run by the state or the federal government that typically hold felons and persons with sentences of more than 1 year. Definitions may vary by state.
The National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) Program produces annual national- and state-level data on the number of prisoners in state and federal prison facilities living with HIV. Findings are released in the HIV in Prisons and Jails series.
The National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) Program produces annual national- and state-level data on the number of prisoners in state and federal prison facilities. Findings are released in the Prisoners series and the Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool (CSAT) - Prisoners.
Probation refers to adult offenders whom courts place on supervision in the community through a probation agency, generally in lieu of incarceration. However, some jurisdictions do sentence probationers to a combined short-term incarceration sentence immediately followed by probation, which is referred to as a split sentence. Probations can have a number of different supervision statuses including active supervision, which means they are required to regularly report to a probation authority in person, by mail, or by telephone. Some probationers may be on an inactive status which means they are excluded from regularly reporting, and that could be due to a number of reasons. For instance, some probationers may be placed on inactive status immediately because the severity of the offense was minimal or some may receive a reduction in supervision and therefore may be moved from an active to inactive status. Other supervision statuses include probationers who only have financial conditions remaining, have absconded, or who have active warrants. In many instances, while on probation, offenders are required to fulfill certain conditions of their supervision (e.g., payment of fines, fees or court costs, participation in treatment programs) and adhere to specific rules of conduct while in the community. Failure to comply with any conditions can result in incarceration.
Parole refers to criminal offenders who are conditionally released from prison to serve the remaining portion of their sentence in the community. Prisoners may be released to parole either by a parole board decision (discretionary release/discretionary parole) or according to provisions of a statute (mandatory release/mandatory parole). This definition of parole is not restricted to only prisoners who are released through a parole board decision, but also includes prisoners who are released based on provisions of a statute. Parolees can have a number of different supervision statuses including active supervision, which means they are required to regularly report to a parole authority in person, by mail, or by telephone. Some parolees may be on an inactive status which means they are excluded from regularly reporting, and that could be due to a number of reasons. For instance, some may receive a reduction in supervision, possibly due to compliance or meeting all required conditions before the parole sentence terminates, and therefore may be moved from an active to inactive status. Other supervision statues include parolees who only have financial conditions remaining, have absconded, or who have active warrants. Parolees are also typically required to fulfill certain conditions and adhere to specific rules of conduct while in the community. Failure to comply with any of the conditions can result in a return to incarceration.
Find a report on the most recent probation and parole counts at Probation and Parole in the United States.
In 2021, 11 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.
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.
Links to most recent publication:
A list of federally recognized tribes in the U.S. is available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-01-29/pdf/2021-01606.pdf