Corrections refers to the supervision of persons arrested for, convicted of, or sentenced for criminal offenses. Correctional populations fall into two general categories: institutional corrections and community corrections. Corrections data, with a few exceptions, covers adult agencies or facilities and adult offenders.
BJS maintains over 30 corrections-related data collections. Most are annual collections of administrative data from correctional administrators, ranging from basic population counts and offender demographic characteristics to facility capacity, programs, staff, and resources. These data collections include—
- National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) Program - administrative data on state and federal prisoners, collected twice a year
- Annual Survey of Jails (ASJ) - administrative data on jail populations
- Annual Probation Survey and Annual Parole Survey - administrative data on offenders under community supervision
- National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) - administrative data on admissions to and releases from state prisons, collected annually from participating state jurisdictions
- Census of Jails and Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities - administrative data on facilities and staff, collected periodically.
- Justice Expenditures and Employment Extracts (JEEE) - administrative data on federal, state, and local government expenditures and employment for corrections activities.
The NPS also collects counts on specific inmate populations from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. territories. Some limited information on the number of juveniles held in adult facilities is also collected in the NPS and the ASJ. Jails in Indian Country is a separate collection for data on counts and characteristics of persons held in tribal jails. BJS also tracks administrative data on other topics, such as HIV in correctional facilities; sexual assault in correctional facilities; and capital punishment statutes, populations, and executions.
In addition to collecting administrative data, BJS maintains a number of recurring national surveys of prison and jail inmates. These surveys are conducted periodically and use a nationally representative sample of inmates. The surveys, Survey of Prison Inmates (formerly known as the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities) and the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails, are broad in scope and collect a wide range of data on the personal and criminal histories of criminal offenders. Topics cover childhood experiences, family structure, educational background, prior criminal activity, substance abuse experiences, mental and physical health problems, and conditions of current confinement. Estimates derived from these surveys are national and, with rare exceptions, are not available at the state or facility level.
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
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.
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.
Terms & Definitions
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