National Survey of Youth in Custody, 2018 (ICPSR 38500)

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


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The National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC) is part of the BJS National Prison Rape Statistics Program to gather mandated data on the incidence of prevalence of sexual assault in juvenile facilities under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA; P.L. 108-79). The Act requires a 10 percent sample of juvenile facilities to be listed by incidence of sexual assault. Data are collected directly from youth in a private setting using audio computer-assisted self-interview (ACASI) technology with a touch-screen laptop and an audio feed to maximize inmate confidentiality and minimize literacy issues. The NSYC-3 was administered to 6,910 youth in 332 state operated and locally or privately operated juvenile facilities within the United States. Youth were randomly assigned to either a sexual victimization questionnaire (90%) or an alternative questionnaire (10%).

Sexual victimization questionnaire: Youth selected for this questionnaire received one of two versions, based on their age. The Older Youth questionnaire was administered to youths ages 15 and up, and the Younger Youth questionnaire was administered to those 14 and younger. The survey was divided into six sections. Section A collected background information, such as details of admission to facility and demographics including education, height, weight, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and history of any forced sexual contact. Section B, Facility Perceptions and Victimization, included respondents' opinions of the facility and staff, any incidence of gang activity, and any injuries that had occurred. Section C, Sexual Activity Within Facility, captured the types of sexual contact that occurred and the circumstances of sexual contact. Section D, Description of Event(s) with Youth, and Section E, Description of Event(s) with Staff, focused on when and where the contact occurred, the race and gender of the other youths or staff members, if threats or coercion were involved, and outcomes, including whether or not the sexual contact was reported. Section F collected additional information about the youth, such as disability and mental health conditions, and the facility, including living conditions and use of restrictive housing.

Alternative questionnaire: A random selection of youth were assigned to an alternative questionnaire to "mask" which questions an individual might have been asked. In addition to Sections A, B, and F from the sexual victimization questionnaire, this questionnaire included sections on facility living conditions, mental health, grievance procedures, substance use, treatment programs, living arrangements, youth education and aspirations, communication with family, and post-release plans.

A Facility Questionnaire (FQ) collected in-depth information on each sampled facility via an online questionnaire. Topics included number of facility staff by race/ethnicity, job category, age, and length of service; staff turnover/vacant positions; personnel screening; staff training; number of youth, admissions, and discharges; rated capacity (i.e., number of beds), occupancy, and crowding; youth disabilities; grievance process; special housing; and youth education on PREA.

Other variables in the datasets include debriefing questions about respondents' experiences completing the survey, interviewer observations, created variables to summarize victimization reports (due to the complex routing in Section C), weight and stratification data, and administrative data about the facilities.

United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Survey of Youth in Custody, 2018. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2022-10-12.

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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 Physical Data Enclave (PDE) in Ann Arbor, MI.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2018-03 -- 2018-12

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-79) requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to carry out a comprehensive statistical review and analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape for each calendar year. The National Survey of Youth in Custody, 2018 provides facility-level estimates of youth reporting sexual victimization in juvenile facilities.

The third National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC-3) was conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by Westat (Rockville, MD), under a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Data collection was conducted in 332 juvenile facilities between March and December 2018.

Interviewing juveniles in residential facilities on such sensitive topics required extensive preparations with agency and facility administrators prior to the interview. These preparations ranged from methods to obtain consent, procedures to file mandatory reports of child abuse or neglect, arrangements for counseling in case a youth became upset, and logistical support to physically carry out the interviewing. The specific procedures that had to be negotiated with state and local authorities were:

  1. Random sampling to questionnaires - the NSYC-3 used a survey of sexual victimization and an alternative survey with items on facility living conditions, mental health, drug and alcohol use prior to admission to the facility, and other topics. Youth were randomly assigned one of the questionnaires so that, at the time of the interview, the content of the survey remained unknown to facility staff, the survey interviewers, and other youth.
  2. Age-specific sexual victimization questionnaire - The ACASI application presented somewhat different versions of the NSYC questionnaire depending on the age of the respondent. The content and wording of questions used to screen youth who had experienced sexual activity while at the facility differed by age. Youth aged 14 or younger were presented screener questions that used less explicit terminology to ask about sexual contact (e.g., "...rubbed your private parts"). If a younger respondent answered affirmatively to one of the screener questions, then they received additional questions using more explicit terminology. All NSYC respondents aged 15 or older were presented only those questions using the more explicit terminology.
  3. Consent to interview minors - 21 states and the District of Columbia provided consent in loco parentis (ILP), in which the state agency acting as the guardian provided consent; 21 states required written consent and 1 states required either verbal or written parental or guardian consent (PGC); 1 state allowed for a combination of ILP and written PGC, and 6 states required passive consent (PGC-NR), in which guardians were mailed consent packets and, if the guardian did not indicate a refusal the state then granted consent for those youth to be interviewed.
  4. Mandatory reporting of abuse or neglect - all survey staff in direct contact with youth were required to comply with state and local reporting requirements when a youth made a verbal statement suggesting abuse or neglect. Jurisdictions provided contact information and instructions for submitting reports to an agency outside of the facility (e.g., local Child Protective Services).
  5. Counseling services - jurisdictions were asked to identify both facility-based and external resources for counseling services in the event a youth would become emotionally upset during the interview or make a specific request to the interviewer for such services.

The interviews, which averaged approximately 30 minutes in length, used audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (ACASI) data collection methods. Youth interacted with the computer-administered questionnaires using a touchscreen and synchronized audio instructions delivered through headphones. Youth could choose to take the interview in either English or Spanish. Youth completed the interview in private, with the interviewer remaining in the room but in a position that did not offer a view of the computer screen.

A total of 6,910 youth participated in the NSYC-3. Of these, 6,211 youth completed the survey on sexual victimization and passed editing and consistency checks. A total of 699 completed the alternative survey.

The NSYC-3 sampling frame included facilities owned or operated by a state juvenile justice correctional authority and locally or privately operated juvenile facilities holding youth under state contract. The universe was restricted to facilities that housed youth for at least 90 days, contained more than 25% adjudicated youth, and housed at least 10 adjudicated youth.

A multistage stratified sample design was used. At the first stage of selection, 453 facilities met the eligibility criteria for the NSYC-3. Facilities were selected using the 2015 Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. As the sample frame of facilities was further refined, BJS identified 33 additional contract facilities that were holding state-placed adjudicated youth and added them to the sample, for a total of 486 facilities in the frame.

All state facilities were selected with certainty. Among non-state facilities, those with 20 or more adjudicated youth were also sampled with certainty. In seven states - Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina - subsampling occurred among the non-state facilities with 10 to 19 adjudicated youth. This subsampling occurred with equal probability by state at a rate of 50 percent or higher.

Subsequent state-level and facility-level enrollment efforts determined 148 of these 486 facilities to be out-of-scope. Facilities were out-of-scope under any of the following conditions:

  • closed or were scheduled to close prior to data collection (33)
  • did not house youth for more than 90 days (35)
  • did not house state-placed youth (42) or adjudicated youth (11)
  • merged with another enrolled facility (7) or were a duplicate of another enrolled facility (3)
  • did not meet size criteria when sampled individually (2)
  • were no longer a juvenile corrections facility (2)
  • were not selected in a subsample (13).

Of the remaining 338 eligible juvenile facilities, 6 lacked consent for a sufficient number of youth to permit data collection. An additional 5 facilities were excluded because data on sexual victimization were not collected or could not be used.

Selection of Youth

Rosters of adjudicated youth were provided by facilities granting in loco parentis (ILP) consent 5 weeks prior to data collection. Facilities granting other forms of consent (either PGC or some combination of PGC and ILP) provided a roster 9 weeks prior to data collection. Rosters were subsequently updated to reflect youth who were admitted to or discharged from each facility.

Interviewing capacity at each facility was assessed based on the number of available days, interviewing rooms, and interviewers. In facilities determined to have sufficient capacity, all eligible youth were selected for the survey. In other facilities, youth were randomly subsampled so the number of youth did not exceed interviewing capacity.

The final NSYC-3 universe represented 12,750 adjudicated youth held in state-owned or -operated juvenile facilities or placed in locally or privately operated juvenile facilities that met the eligibility criteria for inclusion in the sample. After subsampling, the final sample of youth was 12,362. Approximately 23 percent of youth did not participate because consent from the parent or guardian could not be obtained, 14 percent refused to complete the interview, and 8 percent were nonrespondents for other reasons (e.g., they did not complete the entire interview, they were not at the facility at the time of visit, the facility denied access, or they were excluded due to extreme or inconsistent response patterns).


The universe for the survey was all adjudicated youth residing in facilities owned or operated by a state juvenile correctional authority and all state-adjudicated youth held under contract in locally or privately operated juvenile facilities. The universe was restricted to facilities that housed youth for at least 90 days, held at least 25% adjudicated youth, and held at least 10 adjudicated youth at the time of the survey. These restrictions were imposed to allow sufficient time to obtain consent from the parent or guardian.


Calculating response rates

BJS conducted a data-quality review of the 6,211 completed sexual-victimization surveys. The review identified 162 surveys that either did not provide sufficient information to determine whether a sexual victimization had occurred (63) or provided extreme or inconsistent responses (99). Excluding these 162 responses, 6,049 survey responses from adjudicated youth held in eligible facilities were used to generate estimates of sexual victimization.

The final facility-level response rate was 98.2% (332 participating facilities out of the total of 338 eligible). The final youth-level response rate was 54.6% (6,049 usable responses from the sexual victimization survey and 699 usable responses from the alternative survey, out of the total 12,362 eligible sampled youth). The overall NSYC-3 response rate was 53.6%, calculated by multiplying the final facility-level response rate by the final youth-level response rate.

Separate response rates were calculated for each participating facility. An initial response rate for each facility was calculated by dividing the sum of youth who provided a usable response from the sexual-victimization survey by the number of youth sampled for the sexual-victimization survey. The final response rate was then multiplied by 100.



2022-10-12 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:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Weighting and nonresponse adjustments for facility and national estimates

To generate facility estimates, each youth was assigned an initial weight corresponding to the inverse of the probability of selection within each facility. A series of adjustments was applied to the initial weight to compensate for any subsampling or non-response.

Subsampling of youth within a facility occurred for two reasons. First, in four facilities where the number of youth who consented to be interviewed was larger than the facility's interviewing capacity, a random subsample was excluded from the survey. Second, in every facility, a random subsample was selected to complete the alternative survey. In both circumstances, the weights of subsampled youth were distributed to the sampled youth using their subsampling probabilities.

Non-response adjustments were made at two points in the weighting process: to account for youth for whom PGC was required but could not be obtained; and to adjust for non-response among youth with consent to be interviewed. The following steps were taken to construct the non-response adjustments:

  1. Initial adjustments were determined by creating groups of similar youth based on most serious offense, race or ethnicity, age, sex, and number of days housed in the facility.
  2. Adjustment groups required a minimum of 10 responding youth. In many facilities, this minimum requirement resulted in no non-response adjustment because the facility had too few total interviews (i.e., less than 20) to create more than one group, or the difference between responding and non-responding youth was not statistically significant. In facilities where significant differences were observed, two or three non-response groups were usually created.
  3. Within-facility weights were modified to reduce undue influence from a relatively small number of respondents with large sample weights. If the largest respondent weight was more than four times the smallest weight in the same facility, the largest weights were adjusted so the large-to-small ratio within the facility would not exceed four.

To generate national estimates, each sampled facility was assigned a weight that corresponded to the inverse of the facility's probability of selection into the sample, and the weight was adjusted for facility non-response. The final national-level youth weights were then calculated by multiplying the adjusted facility weights by the adjusted youth weights. For national weighting adjustments, the large-to-small weight ratio was capped at 24. In each instance, the difference in weighted counts was distributed to the remaining youth.



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