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Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (SILJ): Design and Testing

Award Information

Award #
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $999,667)

The main objectives of this project are to conduct research on the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (SILJ) instrument and sampling design and to create and pilot test a revised instrument and sampling method for the next iteration of the survey collection.

The SILJ allows BJS to profile the jail inmates and provide estimates on more specialized topics, such as physical and mental health of inmates, characteristics of veterans in jails, and substance abuse of inmates. The major goals of the project are to expand the scope of the SILJ, improve both the quality of the data it collects and the ability to analyze the data for trends, and compare the data to other populations using other data sources.

The award recipient, Abt Associates Inc., will complete the following major goals and deliverables:

Goal 1: Research and Development
1. Technical report with recommendations for the instrument design based on Abt’s literature review and results from the expert panels and stakeholder feedback for expanding/enhancing topical domains.
2. Stakeholder action plan. Abt, with assistance from the BJS project manager, will develop and submit a draft of a stakeholder action and support plan. The stakeholder plan is an initiative for marketing and gaining support for fielding the SILJ and soliciting feedback from stakeholders on the survey’s domains.
3. Technical report that assesses the pros and cons of various sampling designs and recommended sampling strategies. The primary goal of the SILJ sample design is to generate national-level estimates from a cross-sectional sample of inmates of local jails. One of the primary tasks for Abt will be to assess sampling designs for the SILJ and recommend changes to the design, if any, for the national implementation of the SILJ.
4. Delivery of final SILJ sample design.

Goal 2: Survey Instrument Delivery and Pretest
1. Deliver survey instrument. Abt will deliver a survey instrument that is cost- effective, minimizes respondent burden, and captures information needed to make national-level estimates about the characteristics of jail inmates. While designing the instrument, Abt will explore if and how administrative data can be linked with survey data to collect information on variables such as an inmate’s current charges, probation or parole status, sentencing information, and criminal history. This effort is intended to decrease respondent burden and may be used to verify inmate-provided information. Abt will also explore the feasibility of using a core set of modules for all inmates, along with a rotating set of special-topic modules (e.g., health care) to maximize the content covered by the survey while maintaining the ability to make national estimates of inmate behaviors and characteristics.
2. Conduct survey pretest. Abt will work with BJS to determine the final pretest universe of facilities and inmates based on efficiency and cost effectiveness and field test the survey instrument and protocols in a sample of jails to assess the feasibility of using the instrument to obtain data from a nationally representative sample of jail inmates. Abt will work with BJS to obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval for the testing of the instrument.

Goal 3: Pretest Results and Survey Instrument Revisions. Abt will deliver the field test data and documented results to BJS for review. Pretest results will include, but not be limited to, unit (facility and inmate) response rates, survey and item or section completion times (mean, median, mode, and range), and topics of issues, among others. Based on the pretest results, Abt will refine the survey for national implementation.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 23, 2015