U.S. Department of Commerce

Jail Census

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PURPOSE

To provide current and comprehensive data on local jail facilities, populations, and programs. The United State Code, Titles 15 and 42, authorized this census and provides for voluntary responses. The Bureau of Justice Statistics fully funds this census.

COVERAGE

All correctional facilities that are administered by county or municipal governments (directly or under contract) and hold inmates beyond their initial arraignment (usually more than 48 hours). Facilities include detention facilities for persons awaiting trial, and short-term commitment facilities for persons serving sentences usually up to one year.

CONTENT

Data are collected on facility and inmate characteristics. Facilities data include capacity, average daily population, programs, facility age, use of space, staffing and operating expenditures. Inmate data include population (by sex, race, and ethnicity), detention status, and length of stay.

FREQUENCY

Every five years since 1978. Data are for activities as of June 30 of the reference year. Collection begins about one month after the reference date.

METHODS

A mail-out census of all locally administered jails. Jail Administrators can respond via mail fax or Web reporting option. Data from each jail are for all adult inmates in their custody or under their supervision.

PRODUCTS

Public use electronic files are produced about 14 months after the census reference data by the Bureau of the Census, for the University of Michigan, under agreement with the Department of Justice. Data are not subject to confidentiality limitations.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Provides the only source of periodic national statistics on U.S. jails and jail inmates.

USES

The Department of Justice uses the data to conduct and benchmark the results of other surveys of jail inmates. The U.S. Congress use the data to monitor trends in the jail population and activities. State and local governments use these data for policy making. Researchers use these data to analyze trends and to monitor progress toward meeting objectives.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Annual Survey of Jails


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