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A guide to data sources for advocates seeking reform of the criminal legal system

Last modified March 2022

Table of Contents
Policing
Crime Rates
Police Contact
Incarceration
State and federal prisons
Jails
Conditions of confinement
Probation, Parole, and Reentry
Special Populations
Youth
Native Americans
Immigration
Local Data
Appendices

The Prison Policy Initiative uses a number of different data sources to produce research exposing the harms of mass incarceration. Below we provide descriptions of and links to helpful sources we have used. These sources are organized in sections about policing, incarceration, community supervision and reentry, and special populations, and each source references an appendix that provides additional details about the data sources we discuss (e.g., how old is the data, are breakdowns along gender or racial categories available, etc.). Many national sources we use don't show people the details of what's happening in their communities; for that reason, we've provided starting points in the final section about local data to help people locate information about their counties, cities, and states.

If you have questions or we can be of more assistance, please contact us.


Policing

Crime rates

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • The crime rate in your state or city and how it has changed over time?
  • How the crime rate in your state compares to rates in other states?
  • How many women were arrested for robbery last year?
    • How many youths under 18?
  • How many assaults go unreported to police?
    • The difference between the number of police reports for assault and the number of people who report being assaulted?

A check mark

Look to:

  • The FBI's Crime Data Explorer
    This tool will show you how many crimes have been reported to police either nationally or in a given state. If you need to know who police are arresting (i.e., how old, what race/ethnicity, and what sex), you'll find that data under the Crime Data Explorer's Arrest tab.
  • The National Crime Victimization Survey(NCVS)
    This survey allows us to see the difference between the number of police reports for personal and property crimes (or the number of arrests for those crimes) and the number of people and households that actually experience being personally attacked, threatened, stolen from, etc. It's a Bureau of Justice (BJS) survey that asks U.S. households to report their personal experiences with crime; the answers become the basis for the data points in publications like Violent Victimization by Race and Ethnicity and Criminal Victimization.

    BJS also offers tools to generate tables based on crime and arrest data. (Through the "Custom Tables" option, users can generate tables that provide details on "offense," sex, age, and race.)
    • The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) Arrest Data Analysis Toolprovides the estimated national, state, and local agency crime statistics available through the FBI's Crime Data Explorer, but because this tool has arrest data from 1980 to 2014, it's useful if you need to retrieve data before 1985.
    • The NCVS Dashboardprovides national estimates of personal and household victimization from 1993 to the most recent year that NCVS data are available.
    • The homepage for both tools include a helpful User's Guide.
  • The Prison Policy Initiative's Research Library section on Police and Policing curates policy-related research.

For more on these sources, see Appendix A.

Did you know?

Beyond the data, BJS shares the details of its studies

Every BJS survey has a landing page helpful to people who want to dig deep into the data. Each landing page features a section where users can access details about the survey methodology, publications that have analyzed the survey data for you, links to the archived data, and the questionnaires used in each survey.

You may ask, how are the methodology and questionnaires helpful? The methodology is important for identifying special groups of people who may have been excluded from the survey (e.g., a survey that targets households would necessarily exclude the houseless population). The methodology also helps you identify the data sources you can take full advantage of without waiting for BJS's next survey. For example, BJS periodically surveys every state and local law enforcement agency, and that can provides you with a template for gathering similar data from your local police department. That's why the questionnaires section of each survey can be useful. Not only are they helpful for determining the specific data available for analysis through each survey, they're also a good example of the kind of questions you might include in records requests to your local jail, police department, or prosecutor's office.


Police contact

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • How many people call the police nationally to report crimes? How many people call the police for non-crime emergencies? How either of these numbers have changed over time?
  • What the racial, gender, and age breakdowns are for the people police pull over for traffic stops?
  • How often police contact results in police violence?

A check mark

Look to:

  • The Police-Public Contact Survey
    What happens when a person comes into contact with the police? Why has the contact happened in the first place? Did someone call the police, did the police officer stop someone in traffic, stop and frisk them on a sidewalk? This BJS survey answers these questions on a national level. Key reports produced from this survey include the Contacts Between Police and the Public series (updated every three years or so) and Police Use of Nonfatal Force, 2002–11.
  • The National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Data Archive
    This annual survey is useful for learning about who is coming into contact with the police in terms of characteristics like race, gender, health status, and drug use. The survey is not particularly focused on criminal legal system experiences, but it does ask respondents about lifetime and past year arrest history.1 The website offers a helpful tool with which you can compare the demographic and health information of people with these criminal legal system experiences against those who have not been arrested.

    For example, users on the homepage can select from the Analyze Data dropdown. "Public Use Data Analysis System" takes users to page with a "Surveys" panel on the left where users can select "NSDUH" for a list of surveys going back to 2002.

    Clicking a survey will take users to a Crosstab Creator. Subjects related to Corrections are found under Special Topics. Users can, for example, populate the Row Variable with "# of Times Arrested and Booked Past 12 Months" and cross reference it with a Drug Treatment topic like "Ever Received Alcohol or Drug Treatment."

    You can find the user's guide for the Public Use Data Analysis System here.
  • Mapping Police Violence
    This site allows users to view police killings since 2013, by state, local police department, by whether the officer was on duty and whether they were charged, and by victim characteristics such as race, gender, mental health status, whether they were armed, etc. The data have been analyzed to produce "scorecards" for each police department and sheriff's department for which there are data.

For more on these sources, see Appendix B.



Incarceration

State and federal prisons

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • The prison populations in each state for women? Men? The racial breakdowns of these populations?
  • How populations in private prisons have changed over time?
  • How much time people are serving in prisons and for what?
  • How many people in prison are parents of young children?

A check mark

Look to:

  • The National Prisoner Statistics Program (NPS)
    This BJS survey identifies both how many people are in state and federal prisons and who is in these prisons — in terms of race, age, and other demographic factors. Some key reports based on this data include the annual Correctional Populations in the United States and Prisoners series, and special reports like Aging of the State Prison Population, 1993–2013.

    Again, BJS offers a tool to generate tables based on prison population data. (Through the "Custom Tables" option, users can generate tables that provide details on "offense," sex, age, and race.)
  • Correctional Statistical Analysis Tool (CSAT) — Prisoners provides one-day snapshots on year-end populations as well as annual admissions and releases. The tool is useful for:
    • Looking at trends over time (historical data goes back to 1978).
    • Comparing states to each other and to national trends.
    • Drilling down into specific populations (such as unsentenced people in the custody of prisons, people held in private prisons, etc.).
  • The National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP)
    What this resource offers on prison populations that the NPS and CSAT — Prisoners tool don't is a deeper dive into population data. For example, NCRP includes data on convictions, sentence length, and minimum time to be served. The archived data are available for public use, but for most of the annual datasets, you need some familiarity with data analysis and/or software like R or Stata to really dig into it.
  • The Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI)
    This national BJS survey collects more detailed information about people in state and federal prisons than any other, and unlike most other studies, it collects information from incarcerated people themselves. Some important data points that it has that can be hard to find in other sources include:
    • Socioeconomic characteristics
    • Family backgrounds
    • Experiences in prison related to programming, discipline, health, and family contact

    One clear benefit of this survey is that it provides more accurate data on race in prisons because the demographic information is gathered directly from the incarcerated people it describes rather than relying on prison records, which may reflect the guesses or assumptions of prison officials. One drawback is that the data cannot be broken down state-by-state — all findings are at the national level. There are also often long gaps between these surveys (e.g., until 2016, the most recent was in 2004).

    Some key reports based on this survey include Profile of Prison Inmates, 2016, Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children, Disabilities Reported by Prisoners, Veterans in Prison, and Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes.
  • The Prison Policy Initiative's Research Library section on Incarceration Rates, Growth, and Causes curates all the policy-related research about incarceration trends that we learn about. Many other sections may be relevant to your research, however, so browse or search the full Research Library.

For more on these sources, see Appendix C.

Did you know?

BJS shares a publication schedule for upcoming data

If you're looking at information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, you may want to see if the data you're relying on is about to be updated. In order to see what information is scheduled for release in the current calendar year, see BJS's Forthcoming Publications.


Jails

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • How many annual jail admissions there are?
  • Jail incarceration rates by race, ethnicity, and sex?
  • The percentage of people in jail being held pretrial? The number of people incarcerated for misdemeanors?

A check mark

Look to:

  • The Census of Jails (COJ)
    When policy makers say a jail is overcrowded, what does that mean in terms of data? It's a comparison of the number of people in a jail to what's called the jail's "rated capacity" or "design capacity."2 This BJS survey provides these data points - and more - for all local jails and the 12 Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities that function as jails.

    A key report based on this survey is Census of Jails, 2005-2019 - Statistical Tables. The Prison Policy Initiative report Era of Mass Expansion: Why State Officials Should Fight Jail Growth relied heavily on Census of Jails data, and many of its state-level charts and statistics can be updated with the newer 2019 data. This is the only survey of jails that can be used to compare jails at the state level; unfortunately, it is only conducted every six years or so.
  • The Annual Survey of Jails (ASJ)
    This BJS survey provides national estimates on the number of people confined in jails based on a sample of about 950 local jails. Unlike the Census of Jails, this data is collected every year, and is helpful for tracking recent jail trends nationally. In years when the Census of Jails is not conducted, this survey is the basis of the annual BJS Jail Inmates report series.
  • The Vera Institute of Justice's Incarceration Trends tool
    This site provides incarceration trends by state, county, urbanicity (rural, urban, suburban, etc.), gender, race, and conviction status.

    This tool has three main limitations:
    • Data does not include federal jails.
    • Not every county or state has data available for every metric, though most do, and Vera's experts have created estimates for some of the missing data.
    • Although almost all other agencies calculate incarceration rates per 100,000 persons or per 100,000 adults, Vera calculates per 100,000 persons ages 15-64. However, the underlying dataset is available and users with data experience can calculate compatible rates per persons using the raw data and other available population estimates.
  • The NYU Public Safety Lab's Jail Data Initiative
    This program web-scrapes local jail rosters in hundreds of counties across the country. The data available varies by county, but it's worth checking to see what data is available for your county. What's available could include data about:
    • Racial disparities in admissions, population, and types of charges
    • Incarceration for failure to appear in court
    • Failure to pay fines or fees
    • Cannabis-related charges
    • Contempt of court
  • The Prison Policy Initiative's Research Library section on Jails curates all the policy-related research about jails that we learn about.

For more on these sources, see Appendix D.


Conditions of confinement

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • What the quality of medical treatment is in correctional facilities?
  • How many incarcerated people with substance abuse history have access to services?
  • What relationship exists between being arrested and mental health? Poverty? Employment?
  • How correctional responses to Covid-19 in your state compare to other states?
  • The number of people who have died in correctional facilities? The causes of death?

A check mark

Look to:

For more on these sources, see Appendix E.



Probation, Parole, and Reentry

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • How many adults are on parole or probation in your state? How these numbers have changed over time?
  • How much incarcerating people for technical probation and parole violations costs your state?
  • What the probation and parole outcomes are in your state, i.e., are people completing their supervision successfully or returning to custody?
  • What the estimated racial, gender, and age breakdowns of recidivism are in the U.S.?

A check mark

Look to:

  • The Annual Probation Survey and Annual Parole Survey
    These BJS surveys provide national- and state-level data for all 50 states, the federal system, and the District of Columbia. Data includes:
    • Number of adults on state and federal probation or parole on a given day.
    • Number of adults entering and exiting probation and parole supervision each year (and whether they are "exiting" back to incarceration).
    • The characteristics of adults under supervision.

    Key reports based on this survey include the annual (or sometimes biannual) Probation and Parole in the United States and Correctional Populations in the United States series.
  • The Robina Institute's Profiles in Parole Release and Revocation
    Much of the data we rely on come in the form of hard numbers. Descriptive data (i.e., data that tells the story about a topic or provides policy details) can also be valuable. The Robina Institute at the University of Minnesota tells the story of parole through detailed state profiles, produced between 2016-2019. They offer profiles of each of the 34 states with discretionary parole systems, accessible under the "Area of Expertise" tab on the website. Each profile describes a state's release and revocation system, centralizing many important details about parole eligibility, hearings, and post-release policies. Additionally, the Robina Institute produced a detailed report in 2014 about probation policies and practices - including revocation - in 21 states.
  • Council of State Government Justice Center's Confined and Costly
    This site offers a national and state-by-state analysis of how probation and parole violations fill prisons and burden budgets. Data includes:
    • Number and percent of state prison populations and annual admissions to prison that are due to supervision violations.
    • Breakdowns of the types of violations (i.e., technical violations vs. new offenses, probation vs. parole violations).
    • Estimated annual cost to states for incarcerating people for violations.

    Data does not include the impact on local jails.
  • The National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Data Archive
    In addition to providing information about who comes into contact with the police (see NSDUH under Police Contact for the full description of this survey), this annual survey is useful for learning about the characteristics (race, gender, health status, drug use, etc.) of people with recent probation and parole histories.

Digging Deeper

Resources to help you better understand the collateral consequences of incarceration

Readers interested in understanding the collateral consequences of incarceration in their state and elsewhere can start with Collateral Consequences Resource Center's Restoration of Rights Project. This project doesn't provide statistics, but it provides state-by-state analysis of laws and practices related to restoration of rights and status following arrest and conviction. The site includes a series of 50-state comparison charts that reveal national patterns, and it also releases periodic reports on new enactments. Another useful resource is the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction. It provides data on statutes and regulations that impose collateral consequences in all 50 states, the federal system, and the District of Colombia.

  • Recidivism of State Prisoners
    This BJS series of reports provides the data from several studies that track samples of incarcerated people released from state prisons. The studies document the arrest, conviction, and incarceration experiences of the formerly incarcerated people within and outside of the state that released them. Several "waves" have been studied; most recently, BJS published a 5-year follow-up report about people released from prisons in 34 states in 2012 and a 10-year follow-up report about people released in 24 states in 2008.
  • The Prison Policy Initiative's research libraries on Probation and Parole and Recidivism and Reentry curates the research we've found on these topics.

For more on these sources, see Appendix F.



Special Populations

Youth

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • The demographics of the youth incarcerated in your state? The reason they're incarcerated? How long they've been incarcerated?
  • Whether gender impacts time spent in detention?
  • The patterns of racial disparity across the country? How states compare on this topic?

A check mark

Look to:

  • The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Statistical Briefing Book
    This office provides national, state, and county level information on juvenile crime, victimization, incarceration, court caseloads, and residential placement facilities. Some key web tools include:
    • Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (EZACJRP), based on a study conducted every other year, provides state and national data on the characteristics of youth held in juvenile facilities, including demographics, length of stay, and the most serious committing offense. The tool features state profiles, state comparisons, and national crosstabs (which is useful for identifying relationships between variables like race and time in detention).
    • Easy Access to Juvenile Populations provides overall youth population profiles on a national, state, and county level with the functionality to compare states or counties. These numbers are helpful for comparing the statistics from the EZACJRP to the overall youth population in various geographies (for example, when trying to determine racial and ethnic disproportionality in the juvenile justice context).
  • The W. Haywood Burns Institute's United States of Disparities
    This data project organizes the information compiled by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Prevention to highlight racial disparities in states across the country. Users can click on any state on a color-coded map to access a detailed state profile that includes one-day counts, annual decision points, detention status, reform efforts, and state advisory groups.
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Center
    This site collects data about youth populations in the U.S. Although this project is not focused on the criminal legal system, it allows users to create custom reports that include national, state, county, and city data on youth populations in correctional settings. Users can choose a location on the landing page and under topics select filters "Safety and Risky Behaviors" and "Juvenile Justice."

For more on these sources, see Appendix G.


Native Americans

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • How many people are incarcerated in jails on tribal lands, including how many youth under age 18, and how many unconvicted people?
  • Why people are being incarcerated on tribal lands (crimes against persons, nuisance crimes, property crimes, etc.)?
  • How jail capacity or overcrowding on tribal lands has changed over the years?

A check mark

Look to:

  • Survey of Jails in Indian Country
    Who's in jail on tribal lands? For what and for how long? How many people die in these jails? The Survey of Jails in Indian Country answers these questions. The survey is used to produce the annual Jails in Indian Country series, which include state- and facility-specific population data.

For more on these sources, see Appendix H.


Immigration

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • How many people U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are arresting? How long immigrants are being detained?
  • The number of cases pending in immigration courts? The length of time it takes to resolve cases?
  • What the nationalities are for immigrants awaiting the resolution of their court cases at home compared to those who are detained pending their dispositions?

A check mark

Look to:

  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
    ICE is required by law to make certain records public. Their website regularly updates spreadsheets that you can download by navigating to the pages below.
    • The Dedicated and Non-Dedicated Facility spreadsheet is located near the bottom of the Facilities Inspections page under Related Documents. It provides the locations and average daily detainee populations for both ICE facilities and jails contracted by ICE.
    • Also under Related Documents, the Over 72-hour ICE Detention Facilities spreadsheet lists ICE's active adult detention facilities that are authorized to hold detainees for longer than 72 hours (this list does not include juvenile or family residential facilities).
    • Fiscal Year ICE Statistics is located on the Detention Management page under Detention Statistics. It provides data on:
      • Alternatives to incarceration (counts and average length of time in programs)
      • Numbers for detention
      • Booking
      • Release
      • Average daily population
      • Average time detained

      The data is organized by disposition, facility type, criminal legal system involvement, and arresting agency. The spreadsheet provides data breakdowns of ICE Facilities that include:
      • Average time served in each facility.
      • Number of detainees by classification level.
      • Threat level by criminal legal system involvement and gender.
  • National Immigrant Justice Center's Transparency Project
    This organization has obtained thousands of documents through litigation from ICE. Their site features reports and helpful resources to make sense of ICE data in addition to the documents obtained through this organization's court battles. Key resources include:
    • Comprehensive ICE Detention Facility List includes data on types of contracts, demographics, medical care providers, and inspections history for more than 1,000 federal facilities that detain immigrants, including county jails, Bureau of Prisons facilities, Office of Refugee Resettlement centers, hospitals, and hotels. (Customs and Border Protection facilities are not included.)
    • Here Is What We've Learned From It, And A Link For You To Study The Data Yourself provides analysis of the data readers can find in the Comprehensive ICE Detention Facility List.
    • Deaths in Detention report examines the 15 "Detainee Death Reviews" ICE released from December 2015 through April 2017. Eight of the 15 public death reviews show that inadequate medical care contributed or led to the person's death. The physicians conducting the analysis also found evidence of substandard medical practices in all but one of the remaining reviews.
  • Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration Tools
    These tools provide statistics and graphs related to ICE, Customs and Border Protection enforcement, and immigration courts.
  • The Prison Policy Initiative's Immigration Research Library curates the research we've found about the incarceration of immigrants and immigration enforcement.

For more on these sources, see Appendix I.


Local Data

A question mark

Do you want to know:

  • What agencies in your area have the data you need?
  • How to file records requests with local agencies? What to expect from records request processes?
  • The most recent data on your topic?

A check mark

Look to:

  • Agency Websites
    Local government websites vary in the amount of helpful data they provide, but they're often the best place to begin. If you want to know the daily population counts for your local jail, check the sheriff's or jail's website to see if this information is available. If you want to know the arrest rates in your city, the website of your local police department may provide this information.
    • The Prison Policy Initiative's Correctional Facility Locator 2020 provides a searchable list of state and county correctional facilities. In addition, this resource allows you to see the growth of prison populations from 2010 to 2020.
  • Muckrock
    This site catalogues requests for records that have been made to local (as well as state and federal) agencies. It shows the status of those requests, shows correspondence between the requester and the government agency, and maintains digital copies of information that the agency provided. A search of this site can let you know if the information you're looking for has already been requested and supplied.

Looking for data about courts?

Resources to help you collect data about court processes

The Prison Policy Initiative doesn't often use data about court processes. Advocates interested in data on prosecutors can begin their search with Fair and Just Prosecution, and those interested in public defense systems can begin with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Although we receive very few requests about court processes, we do want to lift up one advocate-focused resource related to court decision-making: Mapping Pretrial Injustice. It tracks details about pretrial risk assessment tools used in a limited number of U.S. states and counties, including information about the developer, the variables that are weighted by the tool, and the scoring system. You can request the database containing this information but emailing info@pretrialrisk.com.

  • Getting the information you need: A public records how-to guide
    This guide provides guidance on the information kept by different agencies and how to submit a request for records (if the information you need isn't already available online).
  • State Statistical Analysis Centers
    These sites exist in every U.S. state except Texas.4 They collect, analyze, and report statistics on crime and justice. The information reported varies by state, but it's worth checking to see if your state provides useful local data about the criminal legal system. The institutions that serve as state Statistical Analysis Centers may also be able to answer your questions about what information is available and how to access it.
  • Council of State Governments Justice Center's Justice Counts dashboards
    This site compiles admissions, release, and population data about prisons, jails, probation, and parole. The state and county coverage is not uniformly helpful, but Justice Counts provides a good litmus test for the availability of state data and is especially useful for identifying the current data gaps in each state. For example, it points to which of these state-level data are aggregated, publicly available, and accessible without requiring records requests.


Appendices


Appendix A: Data sources on crime rates


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
Crime Data Explorer (Uniform Crime Reporting Program) FBI U.S. population Offenses known to law enforcement; persons arrested Reported by law enforcement agencies National, state, region, city, individual agency (including university/college) Sex, age, race, urbanicity of area, offense type and characteristics. Homicide victims, offenders, and circumstances; hate crime; trends over time. Additional data are available from the same website about police employees, assaults on law enforcement officers, human trafficking, cargo theft, and more. Annual or more frequently. Depending on participation rates among law enforcement agencies, some UCR data are reported quarterly (i.e. if fewer than 60% of agencies participate, certain data are not reported). 1985
National Crime Victimization Survey BJS Individuals age 12 and older, households. Does not include people in military barracks or correctional facilities. Victimizations (persons and households reporting victimization) Self-reported National, region Age, sex, race, education, employment, family income, marital status, military history, type of crime, severity of crime. Personal and household victimization, excluding homicide; injuries and losses; time and location of crime; medical expenses incurred; victim-offender(s) relationship; characteristics of offender(s); self-protective actions taken by the victim and results of those actions; whether crime was reported to police and reasons for reporting or not reporting; offender use of weapons, drugs, or alcohol. Annual since 1973. 1992
Arrest Data Analysis Tool (based on Uniform Crime Reporting Program data) BJS U.S. population Persons arrested Reported by law enforcement agencies National, individual agency Age, age/sex combined, age/race combined, offense type. Trends over time; age-arrest curves. Annual. Last year of data available is 2014. 1980
National Crime Victimization Survey Dashboard BJS Individuals age 12 and older, households. Does not include people in military barracks or correctional facilities. Victimizations (persons and households reporting victimization) Self-reported National, region Individual: sex, age, race, Hispanic origin, race/Hispanic origin combined, household income, marital status, offense type, population size of area, region. Household: Head of household's sex, age, race, Hispanic origin, race/Hispanic origin combined; household income, household size, population size of area, region. Personal and household victimization, excluding homicide; injury; location of incident; medical treatment of injuries; presence of a weapon and weapon category; victim services; victim-offender relationship; trends over time. Annual 1993


Appendix B: Data sources on police contact


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
Police-Public Contact Survey (supplement to NCVS) BJS Individuals age 16 and older Instances of police-resident contact Self-reported from national sample of U.S. population National Sex, age, race/ethnicity, household income. Type of contact (traffic vs street stop, etc.); reason for contact; experience of nonfatal threats or use of force during contact; perception of force as necessary or excessive. Periodically since 1996 (about every 3 years). Last year of data available is 2018. 1996
National Survey of Drug Use and Health Data Archive U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. population Mental health and substance abuse disorders Self-reports from U.S. residents National N/A. Extensive list of cross-referenceable topics that include age of last drug use, drug use in past 12 months, number of times booked in a jail in past 12 months, and serious psychological stress in past 12 months. No publication schedule available. Last year of data available is 2019. 2002
Mapping Police Violence Mapping Police Violence (NGO) U.S. population Killings by police Collected from use-of-force databases and supplemented by independent research National, state, region, city Race, sex Armed status, type of force used, police agency involved, whether an officer was charged, and police encounter type (violent, nonviolent, unknown, etc.). Updated every weekend. 2013


Appendix C: Data sources on state and federal prisons


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
National Prisoner Statistics Program BJS U.S. prison population Individuals incarcerated in state prisons or under correctional control Reported by correctional agencies National, state Race, sex, most serious committing offense, composition by status (probation, prison, parole), citizenship. Number of people in private facilities and local jails, facility capacity, persons age 17 and younger. Annual. Last year of data available is 2019. 1926
Correctional Statistical Analysis Tool BJS U.S. prison population Individuals incarcerated in state prisons or under correctional control Reported by state correctional agencies National, state Race, sex, most serious committing offense, composition by status (probation, prison, parole), citizenship. Number of people in private facilities and local jails, facility capacity, persons age 17 and younger. Annual. Last year of data available is 2019. 1978
National Corrections Reporting BJS U.S. prison population Individuals incarcerated in state prisons or under correctional control Reported by state correctional agencies National Age, race/ethnicity, sex, veteran status, educational attainment, prior convictions, committing offense(s), county of commitment, time served. Type of admission (new conviction, parole violation, etc.), type of release (mandatory release, parole, escape, etc.), population by facility type. Annual. Last year of data available is 2019. 1983
Survey of Prison Inmates BJS U.S. prison population Individuals incarcerated in state prisons Prison records combined with self-reports from incarcerated people National Age, race/ethnicity, sex, criminal histories, socioeconomic characteristics, family backgrounds, committing offense(s), sentence length. Drug and alcohol treatment, mental and physical health treatment, institutional programs, rules violations. Periodic. Last year of data available is 2016. 1974


Appendix D: Data sources on jails


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
Census of Jails BJS U.S. jail and community supervision populations Individuals incarcerated in jails or under supervision by jails, jails in a state or region, average daily population. Reported by jail officials National, state, region Adult or youth, race/ethnicity, sex, citizenship status, conviction status, severity of offense. Parole/probation violations, contracted jail cells, jail rated capacity, jail jurisdiction size, jails under court order, jail function. Periodic. Last year of data available is 2013. 1970
Annual Survey of Jails BJS U.S. jail and community supervision populations Individuals incarcerated in jails or under supervision by jails, staff working for jails, average daily population. Reported by jail officials National Adult or youth, race/ethnicity, sex, conviction status, severity of offense. Length of confinement Annual. Last year of data available is 2020. 1982
Vera Institute of Justice's Incarceration Trends Vera Institute of Justice U.S. jail population (ages 15-64) Jail admissions, individuals incarcerated in jails, pretrial individuals incarcerated, individuals incarcerated in prison. Reported by U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics and independent research National, state, county, region Race/ethnicity, gender. Jail capacity, urbanicity (rural, urban, suburban, etc.). No publication schedule available. Last year of data available for states is 2020. 1970
Jail Data Initiative NYU Public Safety Lab U.S. jail population Individuals incarcerated in jails, average daily population. Reported by jail officials National, state, county, city Age, Race/ethnicity, gender, conviction status, bond/bail status, type of offense. Length of confinement No publication schedule available. 2019


Appendix E: Data sources on conditions of confinement


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
Census of Jails BJS U.S. jail and community supervision populations Individuals incarcerated in jails or under supervision by jails, jails in a state or region, average daily population. Reported by jail officials National, state, region Adult or youth, race/ethnicity, sex. Drug and alcohol use, COVID-19 testing and infections. Periodic. Last year of data available is 2013. 1970
Survey of Prison Inmates BJS U.S. prison population Individuals incarcerated in state prisons. Prison records combined with self-reports from incarcerated people National Age, race/ethnicity, sex, criminal histories, socioeconomic characteristics, family backgrounds, committing offense(s), sentence length. Drug and alcohol treatment, mental and physical health treatment, institutional programs, rules violations. Periodic. Last year of data available is 2016. 1974
National Inmate Survey BJS U.S. prison and jail populations Individuals with substance abuse issues, individuals with mental health issues. Self-reports from incarcerated people National Age, educational attainment, marital status, race/ethnicity, sex, conviction status, arrest frequency, type of offense. Treatment type, sentence length, and time served. Sporadic. Last year of data available is 2012. 2007
Covid Prison Project Covid Prison Project U.S. prison population Covid cases, vaccines, and deaths; quality of policies. Publicly available data through websites and media National, state N/A Policy grades, hot spots, death rates, case loads, cases by jurisdiction. No publication schedule available but regularly updated. 2020
Mortality in Correctional Institutions BJS U.S. prison and jail populations Deaths Reported by prison and jail officials National, state Age, sex, race/ethnicity, committing offense(s), conviction status, medical status (pre-existing conditions). Cause of death Inactive. Last year of data available is 2017. 2000
Reuters Investigates' Dying Inside Reuters U.S. jail population (excluding Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont) Deaths Reported by prison and jail officials through records requests, supplemented by independent research. National, state, county Age, race, custody status. Cause of death No publication schedule available. Last year of data available is 2019. 2008
Huffington Post's Jail Deaths Database Huffington Post U.S. jail population Deaths Publicly available data through news reports and records requests. National, state Age, sex, conviction status. Cause of death, facility where death occurred. Inactive. Last year of data available is 2016. 2015


Appendix F: Data sources on probation, parole, and reentry


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
Annual Probation Survey and Annual Parole Survey BJS U.S. community supervision population Adults on parole/probation Reported by correctional agencies National, state Race/ethnicity, sex, supervision status, offense type, most serious offense. Adults exiting from probation/parole by type (completion, incarceration, death, etc.), Adults entering probation/parole by type. Annual. Last year of data available is 2019. 1980
Robina Institute's Profiles in Parole Release & Revocation Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice N/A State profiles Reported by correctional agencies State N/A Length of probation sentences, risk assessment tools, international comparisons, ranking of release factors in order of importance. Publication schedule unavailable. Last year of data available is 2019. 2013
Justice Center's Confined and Costly Council of State Governments N/A Prison admissions for parole/probation violations, annual cost Reported by correctional agencies National, state N/A N/A Publication schedule unavailable. Last year of data available is 2017. 2017
National Survey of Drug Use and Health Data Archive U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. population Mental health and substance abuse disorders Self-reports from U.S. residents National N/A Extensive list of cross-referenceable topics that include age of last drug use, drug use in past 12 months, number of times booked in a jail in past 12 months, and serious psychological stress in past 12 months. No publication schedule available. Last year of data available is 2019. 2002
Recidivism of State Prisoners BJS Formerly incarcerated population Adults re-arrested Reported by correctional agencies and FBI National Age, race/ethnicity, sex, criminal history, most serious offense committed, type of admission or release. Recidivism by year(s) after release. Periodic. Last year of data available is 2012. 1983


Appendix G: Data sources on youth incarceration


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Statistical Briefing Book Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Youth (under 18) population Victimizations, youth arrested, youth in custody Reported by government agency National, state, county Age, race/ethnicity, sex, committing offense, detention status. Residential placement, court processes. Publication schedule unavailable. Last year of data available is 2020. 1980
Burns Institute's United States of Disparity Burns Institute Youth (under 18) population Victimizations, youth arrested, youth in custody Reported by government agency National, state, county Race/ethnicity, sex, committing offense, detention status. Juvenile justice decision points, reform efforts, state advisory groups. Publication schedule unavailable. Last year of data available is 2017. 1997
Kids Count Data Center Annie E. Casey Foundation Youth (under 18) population Youth in custody Reported by government agency National, state, county N/A N/A Publication schedule unavailable. Last year of data available is 2019. 2001


Appendix H: Data sources on Native American incarceration


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
Survey of Jails in Indian Country BJS Jail populations on tribal lands Individuals incarcerated, deaths, staff working at jail, average daily population. Reported by jail officials National Age, sex, conviction status, most serious offense. Jail rated capacity, facility size, COVID-19, jail staff employment by job function. Annually. Last year of data available is 2020. 1998


Appendix I: Data sources on immigrant incarceration


Name of data source Published by Populations Basic unit(s) of analysis Type of data (self-reported, administrative, media reports, other) Level(s) of data (National, state, county, city, etc.) Demographic breakdowns offered Special topics covered Frequency of data publication Earliest data easily accessible online
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ICE Immigrants Immigrants detained, detention facilities, average daily population, court cases, removals. Reported by ICE National, state, city Criminal legal status Release types (bonded out, own recognizance), community supervision, length of stay, date of last facility inspection, facility types. Updated monthly. 2018
Transparency Project National Immigrant Justice Center Immigrants Immigrants detained, detention facilities, average daily population, removals, deaths in detention. Reported by Department of Homeland Security through private legal action National, state, city Age, sex Facility rating and date of last inspection, facility types. Publication schedule unavailable. Last year of data available is 2017. 2007 for document requests. 2017 for facility counts.
TRAC Immigration Tools Syracuse University Immigrants Arrests, removals, cases. Reported by government agencies through private legal action National, state, county Age, time in U.S., family unit status (child or adult), marital status, citizenship, gender, entry status, custody status, criminal conviction. Method of arrest, disposition, time in custody. Publication schedule unavailable. Last year of data available is 2018 for enforcement data, 2019 for detention data, and 2021 for court data. 1998 for deportation proceedings. 2004 for removals. 2005 for arrests.


Footnotes

  1. One important caveat: the sample does not include two groups of people likely to be arrested - those in "group quarters" (like jails, prisons, and hospitals) and houseless people who don't use shelters. The estimated number of people who have been arrested in the past year, for example, should be interpreted as a minimum estimate.  ↩

  2. There are three accepted ways to measure prison system capacity. Some states chose to report one, two, or all three of these capacity measures to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. According to the definitions used in Prisoners in 2019, the three major capacity measurements can be defined as:

    • Rated capacity: the number of people or beds a facility can hold, as set by a rating official;
    • Operational capacity: The number of people a facility can hold based on staffing and services;
    • Design capacity: The number of people a facility can hold, as set by the architect or planner.

    These three stated capacities can vary greatly within a state. For example, the BJS reports that the design capacity of the Alabama prison system (set by the architect or planner) is 12,412 people, while the operational capacity (based on staffing and service levels) is 22,231 people. In its report, the BJS calculated what percentage of the capacity each jurisdiction was operating at for each of the three definitions of capacity. In a state like Alabama, this can create a wide range -- the BJS calculated that in December 2019, the state was operating at 98% of capacity, based on the stated operational capacity, and 176% based on the stated design capacity. But by any measure, there are too many people in Alabama's prisons.  ↩

  3. The site lists other helpful data sources for Correctional COVID-19 data like Vera Institute of Justice, UCLA Covid-19 Behind Bars Data Project (collects and analyzes public information about the coronavirus in prisons, jails, youth facilities, and immigration detention centers across the United States), and the COVID Racial Data Tracker (a spreadsheet that tracks on a state level COVID infections and deaths).  ↩

  4. The U.S. Virgin Islands also has a SAC, but other U.S. territories--Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Guam--do not.  ↩



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