Inmates under the care and custody of a local, state, or federal correctional authority are generally housed in one of two types of facilities – a local jail or a state or federal prison. BJS collects data on the administration and operation of both types of facilities.
- Jails confine persons before or after adjudication and are usually operated by local law enforcement authorities such as a sheriff, a police chief, or a county or city administrator. A small number of jails are privately operated. Regional jails include two or more jail jurisdictions with a formal agreement to operate a jail facility. Persons confined in a jail facility following a criminal conviction are usually sentenced to an incarceration sentence of 1 year or less.
- Prisons confine persons after they are convicted of a criminal offense and are usually operated under the authority of a state Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). As with jails, some prisons are privately operated. Persons confined in a prison are typically serving an incarceration sentence of more than 1 year.
Jails are locally operated short-term facilities that hold inmates awaiting trial or sentencing or both, and inmates sentenced to a term of incarceration of 1 year or less. Jail functions are quite varied and include—
- housing individuals prior to their arraignment in court or who are awaiting trial, conviction, or sentencing
- readmitting probation, parole, and bail-bond violators and absconders
- temporarily detaining juveniles pending transfer to juvenile authorities
- holding mentally ill persons pending transfer to appropriate mental health facilities
- holding individuals for the military, for protective custody, for contempt, and for the courts as witnesses
- processing and releasing inmates to the community upon completion of sentence
- transferring inmates to federal, state, or other authorities
- housing inmates for federal, state, or other authorities because of crowding in those facilities
- operating community-based programs as alternatives to incarceration.
BJS collects information on jail inmates and jail facilities from administrative records maintained by local jails and through periodic personal interviews with inmates held in local jails. Reports and statistical tables are published regularly on a number of jail-related topics, including the number of persons held in jails, inmate and facility characteristics, and deaths that occur in jails. Jail statistics are also available on medical problems experienced by jail inmates, substance abuse and treatment, physical and sexual abuse reported by jail inmates, incarcerated parents, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on jails, among other special topics.
See Publications for BJS jail-related publications and products.
Prisons are longer-term facilities run by the state or the federal government that typically hold and persons sentenced to incarceration for more than 1 year. Prison facilities also generally house a larger population of inmates than local jails.
BJS collects data on prisoners and prison facilities from several sources, including administrative records from state Departments of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and personal interviews with inmates in state and federal prisons. Reports and statistical tables are published regularly on prison population counts, prisoner and facility characteristics, capital punishment, and deaths that occur in prisons. Publications are also available on prisoner recidivism, substance abuse and treatment, mental health, education, and incarcerated parents, among other special topics.
See Publications for BJS prison-related publications and products.
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.