U.S. Department of Commerce

Annual Survey of Jails

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PURPOSE

To provide current estimates of the size and movement of the local jail population in the United States. 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

Collects data on local jails, multi-jurisdiction (regional) jails, and privately contracted jails within selected sampled jurisdictions in 50 States and the District of Columbia.

CONTENT

The ASJ tracks key characteristics of the Nation's jails and jail inmates, and provides national estimates of the number of inmates by legal status, average daily population, admissions, releases, and facility characteristics such as capacity and jail programs.

FREQUENCY

Annually since 1982, except for years in which the Jail Census is conducted (every five years). Data are requested for activities as of June 30 of the reference year.

METHODS

Data are collected primarily by mail canvass with a web-based reporting option. A stratified random sample procedure is used to select facilities for the survey, and is collected using two questionnaires. Facilities are stratified by size of average daily inmate population. A new sample panel is selected every five years.

PRODUCTS

Public use electronic files are produced about 12 months after the reference date by the Census Bureau for the University of Michigan, under an agreement with the Department of Justice. The files provide detailed data for jail facilities at the jurisdiction level; data are not subject to confidentially limitations.

Correctional Populations in the United States are published by the BJS about 12 months after each annual survey reference date. Reports include national and state data on trends in the correctional system population, and selected characteristics of the adult jail population.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Provides the only current data on jail populations and population movements at the jurisdictional level and for the Nation.

USES

The BJS, the Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, American Justice Institute, and the National Institute of Justice use these data to monitor inmate population trends, analyze growth patterns, and assess conditions of confinement. Sheriffs, correctional authorities, and others in state and local governments use these data to monitor inmate population trends and plan new construction. News media use the data to report information of interest to the general public. Universities and researchers use these data to analyze trends.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Jail Census


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