Survey of Prison Inmates, United States, 2016 (ICPSR 37692)

Version Date: Mar 28, 2024 View help for published

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United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics


Version V5 ()

  • V5 [2024-03-28]
  • V4 [2021-09-15] unpublished
  • V3 [2021-08-19] unpublished
  • V2 [2021-03-04] unpublished
  • V1 [2020-12-21] unpublished
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Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016

To fulfill part of its mission, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) conducted the Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI), a national, wide-ranging survey of prisoners age 18 or older who were incarcerated in state or federal correctional facilities within the United States. SPI provides national statistics on prisoner characteristics across a variety of domains, such as current offense and sentence, incident characteristics, firearm possession and sources, criminal history, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, family background, drug and alcohol use and treatment, mental and physical health and treatment, and facility programs and rules violations. SPI can also be used to track changes in these characteristics over time, describe special populations of prisoners, and identify policy-relevant changes in the state and federal prison populations. Formerly the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (SISFCF), this survey was renamed SPI with the 2016 iteration.

United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Survey of Prison Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2024-03-28.

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

Access to these BJS-sponsored data is restricted. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete a NACJD Restricted Data Use Agreement available from the ResearchDataGov website, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

Restricted Data Use Agreements available on the NACJD website are provided for reference only. Please visit the ResearchDataGov website to download the appropriate Restricted Data Use Agreement and submit your request. Once approved, data may be accessed from a requester secure site via ICPSR's secure download procedures.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2016-01 -- 2016-10

From January through October 2016, data were collected through face-to-face interviews with prisoners using computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI). In a CAPI interview, interviewers read questions aloud and enter responses directly into a laptop computer, allowing skip patterns and other routing criteria to be implemented automatically. SPI interviews averaged approximately 50 minutes, including about 2 minutes for the consent process and 48 minutes to complete the survey. Interviews were conducted in English (94 percent) and Spanish (6 percent).

The 2016 SPI was a stratified two-stage sample design in which prisons were selected in the first stage and prisoners within sampled facilities were selected in the second stage. A total of 364 prisons (306 state and 58 federal) participated in the 2016 SPI out of 385 selected (324 state and 61 federal), which included 15 sampled prisons that were deemed ineligible. A total of 24,848 prisoners participated (20,064 state and 4,784 federal) in the 2016 SPI, based on a sample of 37,058 prisoners (30,348 state and 6,710 federal), which included 1,549 sampled prisoners who were deemed ineligible for the survey.


The SPI sample was selected from a universe of 2,001 unique prisons (1,808 state and 193 federal) that were either enumerated in the 2012 Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities or had opened between the completion of the census and July 2014. The target population for the 2016 SPI was male and female prisoners age 18 or older who were held in a state prison or were serving a sentence to federal prison in the U.S. during 2016.


A total of 364 prisons (306 state and 58 federal) participated in the 2016 survey out of the 385 selected (32 state and 61 federal). The other 21 prisons were not included, either due to non-response or ineligibility. The first-stage participation rate (i.e., the response rate among selected prisons) was 98.4 percent: 98.1 percent for state prisons (all but 6 out of 312) and 100 percent for federal prisons.

A total of 24,848 prisoners participated (20,064 state and 4,784 federal) in the 2016 SPI based on a sample of 37,058 prisoners (30,348 state and 6,710 federal). The second-stage response (i.e., the response rate among selected prisoners) was 70.0 percent: 69.3 percent among state prisoners and 72.8 percent among federal prisoners.



2024-03-28 Changes were made to the data including adding new BJS report derived variables, removing the temporary suppression of some variables, and other miscellaneous data and documentation updates. Variables that were initially intended to be released but have not been verified or published in a BJS report have been relabeled to indicate that their suppression will not be lifted. In addition to the data, the codebooks, survey instrument, and Offense Codes were updated.

2021-09-15 The questionnaire in each of the PDF codebooks was replaced with an updated version containing a revised table of contents.

2021-08-19 A publicly available codebook was released for DS3 "Restricted-Use U.S. Data".

2021-03-04 The study was updated to include a jackknife multipliers file and a revised user guide.

2020-12-21 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:

  • Performed consistency checks.
  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Responses from interviewed prisoners in the 2016 SPI were weighted to provide national estimates. Each interviewed prisoner was assigned an initial weight corresponding the inverse of the probability of selection within each sampled prison. A series of adjustment factors were applied to the initial weight to minimize potential bias due to non-response and to provide national estimates.



  • 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.

  • One or more files in this data collection have special restrictions. Restricted data files are not available for direct download from the website; click on the Restricted Data button to learn more.

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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.