National Inmate Survey (NIS) - Jails: Alternative Survey Respondents Only, [United States], 2011-2012 (ICPSR 37013)

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NIS Jails: Alternative, 2011-2012

The National Inmate Survey (NIS) is part of the Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Prison Rape Statistics Program, which gathers mandated data on the incidence and prevalence of sexual assault in correctional facilities under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA; P.L. 108- 79). Inmates are randomly assigned to receive either a survey of sexual victimization or a survey of criminal history, facility climate, and mental health. About 90 percent of the respondents completed modules through the survey of sexual victimization while the other 10 percent completed modules through the alternative survey. However, the data in this study focuses primarily upon criminal history, facility climate, and mental health. No respondent answered questions about sexual victimization.

United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Inmate Survey (NIS) - Jails: Alternative Survey Respondents Only, [United States], 2011-2012. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2019-12-19.

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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 access will be provided via ICPSR's Virtual Data Enclave (VDE).

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2011 -- 2012
2011-02 -- 2012-05 (NIS-3)
  1. For further information please visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics website on the National Inmate Survey (NIS).

  2. Data was collected by RTI International under a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

  3. The PDF codebook includes information provided to ICPSR by the Principal Investigator (P.I.) that provides an overview of the study's design and sampling, weighting and nonresponse adjustments, and sample code and output tables from SAS, SUDAAN, R, and Stata.

  4. The aforementioned P.I. produced section of the codebook states that the data was to be made available in a public use file. However, after the data was deposited with ICPSR BJS instructed that access to the data needed to be restricted. Based upon the study design and available data BJS established the restricted access level be the Virtual Data Enclave (VDE).

  5. The last section of the data file contain derived variables computed by the P.I. based on the survey data. They are listed in alphabetical order. These derived variables offer an additional resource to assist in analyzing the data.


The purpose of the National Inmate Survey (NIS) is to gather data on inmates experiences within the state and federal judicial system. It is part of the Bureau of Justice Statistics Prison Rape Statistics Program. The primary data gathered as part of this program is on the prevalence of sexual assault and rape in correctional facilities. The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA; P.L. 108-79) requires a 10 percent sample of correctional facilities to be listed by incidence of sexual assault, with a minimum of one prison and one jail facility in each state.

A secondary purpose is to report on an inmate's criminal history, the facility conditions and events experienced during incarceration, and on the person's mental and physical health prior to and during incarceration. The data in this particular study focuses solely on these secondary purposes. The data file does not contain data on sexual assault and rape during the respondent's stay in jail.

Inmates are randomly assigned to receive either a survey of sexual victimization or an alternative survey. Facility staff, nor the interviewer, know which survey is randomly assigned to the inmate. Although respondents are randomly selected to one particular survey the only modules that respondents were asked to complete for this study were on the topics of demographics, veteran status, criminal history, disabilities, facility climate, and mental health.

The survey typically takes an inmate 35 minutes to complete. The interviewer began the survey using the computer asking for basic background information. The remainder of the interview was conducted in private where the inmate interacted with a computer administered questionnaire using a touchscreen and synchronized audio instructions delivered via headphones. The interviewer either left the room or moved away from the computer while the inmate completed the interview.

Between February 2011 and May 2012 the NIS-3 randomly selected 358 jails. There was a total of 81,306 inmates selected during data collection. A total of 60,032 inmates ended up participating in the survey. Of that total, about 10 percent (5,914 inmates) were randomly selected to complete the alternative survey. Of these 5,914 inmates who were selected and received the survey there were 5,494 individuals who actually completed a sufficient amount of the survey.

Please refer to the codebook for details about the study sampling provided by the Principal Investigator.


Inmates age 18 or older held in a local jail.


Questions from the NIS-3 included in this data file are from nine of the sections of the larger questionnaire:

  • Section A: Inmate Demographics - race, ethnicity, education, relationship status, sexual history, sexual orientation
  • Section B: Inmate Criminal History - reasons for serving time in jail, total time spent in jail
  • Section V: Veteran Status - branch and wars served in while in the military
  • Section D1-D5: Sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status - marriage, relationships, sexual identity
  • Section S: Facility Climate - rating of facility staff, interactions with other inmates, experiences with assault, injury, and theft while in jail
  • Section R: Mental Health - past 30 days, last 12 months, and lifetime experiences with aspects of mental health such as depression and anxiety
  • Section Q: Disabilities - PTSD, hearing, cognitive disability impairing routine functioning
  • Section P: Physical Health - heart problems, stroke, blood disorders, prescription medicine, medical treatment
  • Section M: Interview Debriefing Items - interviewer's assessment of respondents effort, understanding, and experience during the interview

The last section of the data file are derived variables created by the Principal Investigator.



2019-12-19 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:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Each interviewed inmate was assigned an initial weight corresponding to the inverse of the probability of selection within each sampled facility. A series of adjustment factors was applied to the initial weight to minimize potential bias due to nonresponse and to provide national estimates. The data file contains the final weight variable WT_FINAL and 30 replicate weights (REPWT##). Please refer to the codebook for details about the creation and adjustment of the weights provided by the Principal Investigator.



  • 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.