National Prisoner Statistics Program - Coronavirus Pandemic Supplement, [United States], 2020-2021 (ICPSR 38446)

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United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics


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NPS-CPan 2020-2021

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) began designing the National Prisoner Statistics Program - Coronavirus Pandemic Supplement (NPS-CPan) in spring 2020, while simultaneously adding questions on the effects of COVID-19 to its Annual Survey of Jails and Annual Surveys of Probation and Parole. The NPS-CPan was conducted from April to October, 2021 by Abt Associates, Inc. on behalf of BJS, as part of the existing multiyear award to collect annual National Prisoner Statistics (NPS-1b) and National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) data.

The NPS-CPan was designed to be fielded a single time, and was administered to the 50 state departments of corrections (DOCs) and the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), which is also responsible for housing felons sentenced in the District of Columbia. Respondents were asked to complete a survey requesting details on the monthly custody prison population, admissions, and releases of prisoners from January 2020 to February 2021 and counts and demographic distributions of prisoners who tested positive for and who died from COVID-19. In addition, questions covered policies and practices used by states and the BOP to mitigate transmission of the virus, expedite release of prisoners, and determine the process by which staff and prisoners were vaccinated in early 2021. This 14-month survey period allowed BJS to track monthly trends in admissions and custody populations immediately prior to widespread COVID-19 infections in the United States, as well as capture the introduction of vaccines to prison systems.

United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Prisoner Statistics Program - Coronavirus Pandemic Supplement, [United States], 2020-2021. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2022-08-24.

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


Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2020-01-01 -- 2021-02-28
2021-04-05 -- 2021-10-04
  1. There are no data available for Missouri. The state chose not to participate in the NPS-CPan collection.

  2. The time method for this study is "single fielding."


In spring 2020 when BJS was designing the NPS-CPan questionnaire, COVID-19 test kits were scarce, and there was limited guidance from state or federal governments on how to slow or prevent transition in a community dwelling system like a prison. Most state and federal prison systems had begun restricting outside visitation by prisoners' families and friends during the spring and summer of 2020, but also took myriad additional steps to protect prisoners and correctional officers. To capture this variation and the effects of COVID-19 on the prison population, BJS decided to field a full-length supplemental survey on COVID-19, instead of adding a limited number of questions to the annual NPS collection. Compared to persons held in local jails, the overwhelming majority of persons in state and federal prison are sentenced to more than a year under the jurisdiction of correctional authorities, and release from prison is often more difficult than release from a local jail because it can require action by the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of state and federal government. Prisoners also typically serve longer periods of time in custody than do jail inmates, potentially increasing their exposure to COVID-19.

Respondents to the NPS-CPan were asked to report on prisoners held in the physical custody of prison facilities operated by the state or BOP, as well as those operated by private companies contracted to the state or federal governments. BJS instructed respondents to not include prisoners held in local jail facilities in the NPS-CPan because COVID-19 testing and infection counts of these individuals were collected in BJS's Annual Survey of Jails. In the NPS-CPan, prison facilities included prisons, penitentiaries, and correctional institutions; boot camps; prison farms; reception, diagnostic, and classification centers; release centers, halfway houses, and road camps; forestry and conservation camps; vocational training facilities; prison hospitals; and drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

The NPS-CPan questions on testing for COVID-19 focused on viral or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab tests given to prisoners or staff to measure viral load. BJS specifically requested respondents not include antibody or serology tests in their counts because these were considered to be less accurate. Due to the general scarcity of viral tests at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a wide variation in testing practices of departments of corrections (DOCs) across jurisdictions and over time. A number of jurisdictions adopted the practice of only testing symptomatic prisoners and staff and maintained this throughout 2020. Other jurisdictions that could get only enough kits to test symptomatic prisoners in the spring and summer of 2020 were able to test their entire populations later in the year. At least one state found that it was more cost-effective to perform tests of prison sewage and test individual prisoners only when the sewage indicated COVID-19 was present.

The Missouri DOC did not participate in the NPS-CPan data collection. The Oregon DOC attempted to participate in the NPS-CPan data collection but, due to ongoing litigation surrounding the state response to COVID-19 in prisons, was unable to release their responses. Data for Oregon were obtained from its DOC website (Department of Corrections: Updates: COVID-19 Response: State of Oregon), and BJS was able to verify that the custody population, staff, testing, and mortality data on the Oregon DOC website matched the NPS-CPan definitions and could be included in state and national totals. Admissions and releases by month for 2020 for Oregon were obtained from the state's National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) submission. For January and February of 2021, Oregon admissions were imputed based on the previous monthly custody population, minus the average of the releases in January or February in 2020, and the releases in September, October, and November of 2020.

The BOP was not able to provide monthly counts of admissions and the total count of releases during the CPan survey period that met the NPS-CPan definitions. In addition, BOP could not report on the testing, infection, and mortality counts or policies from private facilities contracted by the BOP to hold federal prisoners. Using the monthly population counts reported on the NPS-CPan form and monthly release data from the BOP-operated facilities located on the BOP website (BOP Statistics: Inmate Release Numbers), BJS calculated the monthly admission counts.

Prisoners held in the custody of Bureau of Prisons (BOP) or state-operated correctional facilities, or in the custody of privately operated facilities contracted to the BOP or state correctional authorities in the United States from January 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021.

state/federal department of correction


2022-08-24 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.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


  • 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.