Annual Survey of Jails, 2015 (ICPSR 36760)

Alternate Title:   ASJ 2015

Principal Investigator(s): United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics.


The Annual Survey of Jails (ASJ) is the only data collection effort that provides an annual source of data on local jails and jail inmates. Data on the size of the jail population and selected inmate characteristics are obtained every five to six years from the Census of Jails. In each of the years between the complete censuses, a sample survey of jails is conducted to estimate baseline characteristics of the nation's jails and inmates housed in these jails. The 2015 Annual Survey of Jails is the 28th such survey in a series begun in 1982.

The ASJ supplies data on characteristics of jails such as admissions and releases, growth in the number of jail facilities, changes in their rated capacities and level of occupancy, growth in the population supervised in the community, changes in methods of community supervision, and crowding issues. The ASJ also provides information on changes in the demographics of the jail population, supervision status of persons held, and a count of non-U.S. citizens in custody.

The data presented in this study were collected in the Annual Survey of Jails, 2015. These data are used to track growth in the number of jails and the capacities nationally, changes in the demographics of the jail population and supervision status of persons held, the prevalence of crowding issues, and a count of non-U.S. citizens within the jail population. The data are intended for a variety of users, including Federal and State agencies, local officials in conjunction with jail administrators, researchers, planners, and the public. The reference date for the survey is December 31, 2015.

Series: Annual Survey of Jails Data Series

Access Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. . Annual Survey of Jails, 2015. ICPSR36760-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-07-19.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    correctional facilities, correctional system, demographic characteristics, jail inmates, jails, population characteristics, probation

Smallest Geographic Unit:    city and county

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 2015-01-01--2015-12-31

Date of Collection:   

  • 2016-01--2016-07

Unit of Observation:    jail facilities

Universe:    All sampled jail jurisdictions (i.e., counties, municipalities, boroughs, etc.) identified from the 2013 Census of Jail Inmates.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

From 1982 to 2014, the Census Bureau collected data for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Annual Survey of Jails. However, 2015 ASJ data were collected by RTI, International.


Study Design:   

Data were obtained by mailed questionnaires and web form reporting. The ASJ collection began in January of 2016, and ended in July of the same year.

BJS has consistently maintained high survey and item response rates. In an effort to minimize respondent burden and maximize response, the data collection plan allows for the jail respondents to submit data by mailing their reply in a postage-paid envelope or by fax, in addition to the internet-based reporting system (which BJS implemented and redesigned in 2011).

To maximize the accuracy of survey, at the direction of BJS, data collection staff conduct out-of-range analysis of critical items and use the results from this analysis to prioritize follow-up contacts. Follow-up telephone calls and emails to non respondents are used to encourage high response rates. These methods have proved effective in reaching a 97% response rate while minimizing missing data.


In years between the complete census of local jails, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) conducts the Annual Survey of Jails (ASJ). ASJ uses a stratified probability sample of jail jurisdictions to estimate the number and characteristics of local inmates nationwide. The 2015 ASJ sample consisted of 876 jail jurisdictions, represented by 942 jail facilities (referred to as reporting units). This sample represents about 2,851 jail jurisdictions nationwide. Local jail jurisdictions include counties (parishes in Louisiana) or municipal governments that administer one or more local jails.

The 2015 ASJ differs from the 2006-2012 ASJ's, as data after 2012 includes in the sample a probability of one all California jail jurisdictions in response to the two enacted laws -- AB 109 and AB 117 by the California State Legislature and governor -- to reduce the number of inmates housed in state prisons starting October 1, 2011. The inclusion of all California jail jurisdictions resulted in an additional 21 jail jurisdictions (for a total sample size of 891 jurisdictions).

Since the enactment of the two laws in recent years, the California jail population has experienced changes in size that cannot be compared to the changes of any other state in the United States. For this reason, the California jail jurisdictions were put in separate strata so that they could represent only California jurisdictions.

In the sampling design, the jail jurisdictions nationwide were grouped into 10 strata. The 10 strata were defined by the interaction of two variables: the jail jurisdiction average daily population (ADP) in 2005, and whether in 2005 the jurisdiction held at least one juvenile. For 8 of the 10 strata, a random sample of jail jurisdictions was selected. For the remaining two strata, all jurisdictions were included in the sample. One stratum consisted of all jails (70) that were operated jointly by two or more jurisdictions (referred to as multi-jurisdictional jails). The other stratum (referred to as certainty stratum consisted of all jail jurisdictions (267) that:

  • held juvenile inmates at the time of the 2005 Census of Jail Inmates and had an average daily population (ADP) of 500 or more inmates during the 12 months ending June 30, 2005.
  • held only adult inmates and had an ADP of 750 or more.

Certainty jails jurisdiction in the survey received forms CJ-5D (Certainty Jurisdictions-Central data reporter) or CJ-5DA (Multi-Jurisdiction facilities and privately operated facilities in jurisdictions included with certainty in the Annual Survey of Jails). Randomly sampled jail jurisdictions received forms CJ-5 (County/City operated) or CJ-5A (Private Facilities operating for County/City jail jurisdictions). The same sampling design was adopted for the California jurisdictions.

Time Method:    Cross-sectional

Weight:    The weight variables FINALWT 'Final weight' and DESIGNWT 'Design Weight' are included in the data. Please see documentation for further information on the weight variables provided.

Mode of Data Collection:    web-based survey

Response Rates:    Item response rates ranged from 92% to 99%.

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   2017-07-19



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