Survey of American Prisons and Jails, 1979 (ICPSR 7899)

Principal Investigator(s): Abt Associates


This data collection contains information gathered in a two-part survey that was designed to assess institutional conditions in state and federal prisons and in halfway houses. It was one of a series of data-gathering efforts undertaken during the 1970s to assist policymakers in assessing and overcoming deficiencies in the nation's correctional institutions. This particular survey was conducted in response to a mandate set forth in the Crime Control Act of 1976. Data were gathered via self-enumerated questionnaires that were mailed to the administrators of all 558 federal and state prisons and all 405 community-based prerelease facilities in existence in the United States in 1979. Part 1 contains the results of the survey of state and federal adult correctional systems, and Part 2 contains the results of the survey of community-based prerelease facilities. The two files contain similar variables designed to tap certain key aspects of confinement: (1) inmate (or resident) counts by sex and by security class, (2) age of facility and rated capacity, (3) spatial density, occupancy, and hours confined for each inmate's (or resident's) confinement quarters, (4) composition of inmate (or resident) population according to race, age, and offense type, (5) inmate (or resident) labor and earnings, (6) race, age, and sex characteristics of prison (or half-way house) staff, and (7) court orders by type of order and pending litigation. Other data (contained in both files) include case ID number, state ID number, name of facility, and operator of facility (e.g., federal, state, local, or private).

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.


DS1:  Survey of State and Federal Adult Correctional Systems. - Download All Files (14.847 MB)
DS2:  Survey of Community-based Pre-release Facilities - Download All Files (14.402 MB)

Study Description


Abt Associates. Survey of American Prisons and Jails, 1979. ICPSR07899-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1983.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (77-NI-AX-C018)

Scope of Study


Sample:    The response rate was 100 percent, although a number of institutions had to be queried by telephone as a result of their failure to complete the mailed instrument. In one case, Texas, the federal court in a civil rights case involving the Department of Corrections required the Department to complete the questionnaires.

Data Source:

self-enumerated questionnaires, and telephone interviews

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:   1984-03-18

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