Contraband and Interdiction Modalities in Correctional Facilities, 6 U.S. states, 2018 (ICPSR 37976)

Version Date: Jan 12, 2023 View help for published

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Bryce E. Peterson, Urban Institute; KiDeuk Kim, Urban Institute

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In 2015, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded the Urban Institute, in partnership with the American Correctional Association (ACA), to conduct a study on the prevalence and types of contraband in correctional facilities in the United States, and the interdiction strategies and technologies in place to combat these issues. The goals of this study were to: (1) develop and field test the National Survey of Correctional Contraband (NSCC), targeting state Department of Corrections (DOC) across the U.S. with diverse populations and geographies to understand contraband prevalence and types of interdiction modalities; (2) conduct in-depth case studies to better understand the motivations of adopting contraband interdiction modalities, their implementation challenges, and effectiveness, with reference to the type, geographic location, size of facility, and governing statutes and regulations under which the facility operates; and (3) disseminate research findings and information on contraband and interdiction modalities to correctional facilities interested in selecting an interdiction modality, as well as to both practitioner and scholarly communities. To achieve these goals, the research team established connections with several DOCs around the country as site partners to provide administrative data and insights into contraband-related challenges and interdiction efforts.

Peterson, Bryce E., and Kim, KiDeuk. Contraband and Interdiction Modalities in Correctional Facilities, 6 U.S. states, 2018. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2023-01-12.

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2015-IJ-CX-K001)


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Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

  1. The release for the study will only include the quantitative component and the qualitative component will not be included in the current release.


The purpose of this study is: (a) to estimate the prevalence and types of contraband known to administrators; (b) to determine the methods by which contraband is introduced to inmates (e.g., through visitation, mail, or correctional staff; by modifying items found in the facility; etc.); (c) to quantify the occurrence of contraband-related violence and misconduct in correctional facilities; and (d) understand the types of interdiction modalities used in these facilities and what kinds of contraband these modalities target.

The research team developed the NSCC instrument by completing three activities: (a) an in-depth literature review of scholarly papers on contraband and interdiction practices, as well as non-scholarly sources like newspaper articles and practitioner publications; (b) interviews and focus groups organized by ACA with correctional administrators and staff about their contraband policies and 4 practices, the effectiveness of the interdiction modalities they have implemented in their facilities, and the data they routinely collect related to contraband; and (c) two focus groups, organized by the Fortune Society in New York City, with formerly incarcerated individuals to get their perspective on the ways contraband comes into facilities, how staff detect and remove contraband, and whether there are particular interdiction modalities that are effective. In addition, the team met with vendors of interdiction technologies to learn more about available tools and strategies for combatting contraband.

The quantitative component of the project involved the field test of the NSCC with six state DOCs, including Arkansas, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and Wyoming, totaling 301 distinct prisons of varying security levels and geographies. Survey questions focus on facility characteristics, population and staff counts, facility programs, contraband recoveries, contraband incidents, contraband entry points, and contraband interdiction strategies. The qualitative component of the project involved three multi-day site visits to eleven correctional facilities managed by the Florida DOC, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. These visits included facility walkthroughs, observation of operations, contraband interdiction technology demonstrations, and semi-structured interviews with facility leadership and line staff about the prevalence of contraband and the unique contraband challenges faced by each facility.

The final analytic sample for this study was comprised of 301 prisons across the six agencies, which represented roughly 20 percent of all state prisons in the US. Of this sample, 93 percent were operated by a government agency, while the remaining were operated by private companies. Approximately half (49.8 percent) of the facilities were classified as "maximum," "close," or "high" security, just over one-quarter (25.8 percent) were classified as "minimum/low," 15.7 percent were classified as "medium," and 8.7 percent were classified as "other/administrative." More than 70 percent of the facilities were in rural areas, followed by suburban (16 percent) and urban (11.6 percent) locations. The average rated capacity of the facilities (i.e., the number of beds authorized by a rating official for safe and efficient operation) was 1,065, while the average daily population (ADP) across facilities was 986 individuals (92.6 percent average capacity).


There are a total of 244 variables listed in the Secondary Data Analyst's User Guide. NSCC dataset also contains additional demographic variables such as age, gender, and race in various prisons in the United States.

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2023-01-12 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:

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