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Jails and Jail Inmates 1993-94: Census of Jails and Survey of Jails

By Craig A. Perkins, James J. Stephan, and Allen J. Beck

BJS Statisticians

U.S. Department of Justice

Office of Justice Programs

Bureau of Justice Statistics


April 1995, NCJ-151651

(This report text does not contain the 23 data tables. A copy of the complete report with tables may be obtained from the Bureau of Justice Statistics Clearinghouse, 1-800-732-3277, P.O. Box 179, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0179--or fax your name, address, the title, and the NCJ number to 410-792-4358.)

The number of inmates held in the Nation's local jails on June 30, 1994, reached a record high of 490,442. Local jails, which are operated by counties and municipalities and administered by local government agencies, housed about a third of all persons incarcerated in the U.S. at midyear 1994; the other two-thirds were in State or Federal prisons.

The jail population grew by 30,638 inmates between July 1, 1993, and June 30, 1994, the third largest annual increase recorded since 1983. The 12-month increase was the equivalent of a 6.7% rate of growth.

Between 1983 and 1993, when comparable statistics were collected, the number of local jail employees grew at a faster rate than the number of inmates. During this period, the number of jail inmates increased at an annual rate of 7.5%, while the number of full-time and part-time jail employees grew at an annual rate of 10%. By midyear 1993, local jails employed an estimated 165,500 persons.


After a decade of record growth, the number of inmates in local jails reached a high of 490,442 on June 30, 1994

Annual Survey

Census of Jails of Jails


1983 1988 1993 1994


Number of inmates 223,551 343,569 459,804 490,442

Rated capacity

of jails 261,556 339,949 475,224 504,324

Percent of

capacity occupied 85% 101% 97% 97%

Number of jails 3,338 3,316 3,304 --

Number of staff 64,560 99,631 165,500 --

Number of inmates

per employee 3.5 3.4 2.8 --

Annual operating


per inmate $9,360 $10,639 $14,667 --

--Not collected.

* The number of jail inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents increased from 96 in 1983 to 188 in 1994.

* In 1993, 8 States had over 200 local jail inmates per 100,000 residents: Louisiana (377), Georgia (328), Texas (307), Tennessee (282), Florida (250), Virginia (225), California (222), and Nevada (215).

* Between 1983 and 1993 the number of jail inmates increased 106%; the total jail staff increased 156%; and the number of correctional officers grew 165%.

* At midyear 1994 the capacity of the Nation's local jails was 504,324 inmates, as measured by the number of beds allotted by State or local rating officials.

* The jail population was 97% of rated capacity. Jail space increased 93% between 1983 and 1994.

* White non-Hispanics made up 39% of the jail population; black non-Hispanics, 44%; Hispanics, 15%; and non-Hispanics of other races, 2%.

Factors underlying the growth in the Nation's jail population included:

* an increase in adult arrests

* a growth in jail admissions

* an increased number of felons sentenced to local jails

* an increased number of inmates charged with or convicted of drug offenses

* more inmates held in jails because of crowded State or Federal facilities.

Data sources

The data in this report are based on results from the 1993 Census of Jails and the 1994 Annual Survey of Jails. Every 5 years the jail census collections provide detailed information on local jail inmates, staff, facilities, and programs. Previous censuses were conducted in 1970, 1972, 1978, 1983, and 1988. Beginning in 1982 and in years between each jail census, a sample of jails has been surveyed to obtain basic information on inmates and jail capacity. These annual surveys provide national-level estimates on fewer characteristics than the census. (See Methodology at end.)

As defined in this report, jails are locally operated correctional facilities that confine persons before or after adjudication. Inmates sentenced to jail usually have a sentence of a year or less, but jails also incarcerate persons in a wide variety of other categories.


* receive individuals pending arraignment and hold them awaiting trial, conviction, or sentencing

* hold mentally ill persons pending their movement to appropriate health facilities

* hold individuals for the military, for protective custody, for contempt, and for the courts as witnesses

* relinquish custody of temporary detainees to juvenile and medical authorities

* sometimes operate community-based programs with electronic monitoring or other types of supervision.

Not included in the survey or census are inmates in six States with combined jail and prison systems. At midyear 1994 these States-Alaska (except for 5 local jails), Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont--held nearly 6,000 inmates who were unsentenced or had sentences of less than a year. These inmates and the facilities that house them are included in BJS prison statistics.

The 1993 Census of Jails also included, for the first time, seven Federal facilities that perform the pretrial functions of local jails. Data on these Federal facilities and inmates are reported separately. (See the section on Federal jails.)

Local jail inmates

On June 30, 1994, the Nation's jails held 490,442 inmates, an increase of 6.7% over the number held on June 30, 1993. The jail population grew by more than 30,000 inmates during the 12-month period, the third largest increase ever recorded.

Since 1983 the jail inmate population has nearly doubled on a per capita basis. During this period, the number of jail inmates per 100,000 residents rose from 96 to 188. At midyear 1994 about 1 in every 398 adult residents of the United States was in a local jail.

An estimated 6,725 persons under age 18 were housed in adult jails on June 30, 1994. Over three-quarters of them had been convicted or were being held for trial as adults in criminal court. Most juveniles in correctional custody are housed in juvenile facilities.

Who is a juvenile?

Most, but not all, States define a juvenile as a person under age 18 who is subject to juvenile court jurisdiction. Exceptions usually depend on offense severity or an offender's adjudication history. In the 1993 census and 1994 survey, to achieve reporting uniformity, jail authorities were asked to report the number of inmates under age 18. Of the 6,725 total in 1994, 76% were identified as juveniles tried or scheduled to be tried as adults. Statutes and judicial practice some- times allow youths to be held in adult jails. Often juveniles accused of acts that are crimes for adults may be held in local jails or police lockups, given certain conditions:

* separated by sight and sound from the general population

* held for a limited time, typically less than 6 hours.

Most confined juveniles are housed in institutions specified for them. In 1993 about 96,000 were in public and private juvenile detention and correctional facilities.

The average daily population for the year ending June 30, 1994, was 479,757, an increase of 2.9% from 1993. Between 1983 and 1993, when separate counts by sex were collected, the average daily population of female inmates grew at a faster rate (up 11.1% per year) than the average daily population of adult male inmates (up 7.1% per year).

States with the largest jail populations

In 1993, 5 States incarcerated slightly less than half of all local jail inmates: California (69,298 inmates), Texas (55,395), Florida (34,183), New York (29,809), and Georgia (22,663). Twenty-one States reported a jailpopulation that more than doubled between 1983 and 1993, with growth ranging from 103% in Maryland to 264% in Texas.

States that had the largest number of jail inmates per 100,000 residents in 1993 were Louisiana (377), Georgia (328), Texas (307), Tennessee (282), Florida (250), Virginia (225), California (222), and Nevada (215). States with a jail incarceration rate less than half that of the Nation (178 per 100,000) were Iowa, Maine, and North Dakota (57), Minnesota and Montana (81), and South Dakota (87).

The number of local jail inmates rose the most in the South and the least in the Midwest. From 1983 to 1993 the inmate population grew 135% in the South, 102% in the Northeast, 81% in the West, and 79% in the Midwest.

For the Nation a declining number of jails held these increasing numbers of inmates. In 1993 the total of 3,304 facilities was 12 fewer than 5 years before and 34 fewer than in 1983.

Facility size and the percentage of the inmate population held

A small number of jails held a disproportionate share of the Nation's jail inmates. About 6% of the jail facilities housed more than half of all jail inmates on June 30, 1993. Facilities with an average daily population of 500 or more during the annual period ending June 30, 1993, held 53% of local jail inmates. Facilities with an average daily population of fewer than 50 persons comprised 57% of all jails but housed about 8% of all inmates.

Demographic characteristics of local jail inmates

Male inmates made up 90% of the local jail inmate population at midyear 1994, down from 93% in 1983. An estimated 1 in every 212 adult men and 1 in every 2,048 adult women were held in a local jail on June 30, 1994.

On June 30, 1994, a majority of local jail inmates were black or Hispanic. White non-Hispanics made up 39% of the jail population; black non-Hispanics, 44%; Hispanics, 15%; and other races (Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives), 2%.

Relative to the number of residents in the U.S. population, black non-Hispanics were more than twice as likely as Hispanics, nearly 7 times more likely than white non-Hispanics, and over 9 times more likely than persons of other races to have been held in a local jail on June 30, 1994.

Federal jails

June 30, 1994


Estimated number Number of inmates

of inmates per 100,000 population


Total 490,442 188

White non-Hispanic 191,900 100

Black non-Hispanic 215,400 691

Hispanic 75,500 290

Other race 7,700 74

Note: U.S. resident populations were estimated. Inmate counts were adjusted for nonresponse and rounded to the nearest 100. Rates were based on relevant population subgroups.

Adult conviction status, mid-1993

On June 30, 1993, the most recent date for available data, at least half the Nation's adult jail inmates had been convicted on their current charge. Convicted inmates include those awaiting sentencing, serving a sentence, or returned to jail for a violation of probation or parole. Between 1983 and 1993 the reported number of convicted inmates more than doubled (from 107,660 to 226,600). The number of jail inmates awaiting court disposition also doubled (from 113,984 to 228,900).

In 1993 female inmates were somewhat more likely than male inmates to have been convicted. Among adult female inmates, 52% had been convicted on their current charge, compared to 50% of the male inmates.

Rated capacity and percent occupied At midyear 1994, the rated capacity of the Nation's local jails totaled 504,324. Rated capacity is the maximum number of beds or inmates allocated by State or local rating officials to each jail facility. During the 12 months ending June 30, 1994, an estimated 29,100 beds were added. Nearly a quarter of a million beds have been added since 1983.

As of June 30, 1994, 97% of the local jail capacity was occupied. As measured by a ratio of the number of inmates housed in jail facilities to the rated capacity, the percent of capacity actually occupied may have been somewhat lower than 97%. Included among the total jail inmates were an unknown number of inmates housed outside of jail facilities--under electronic monitoring, on house arrest, under other kinds of community supervision, or temporarily in hospitals or treatment centers.

As a ratio of all inmates to capacity, the percent of capacity occupied increased considerably after 1983, reaching a record 108% in 1989 and then falling to 97% in 1993. Since 1989 rated capacity has risen by nearly 137,000 beds, while the number of inmates has increased by 95,000.

In 1993 the total jail population exceeded jail capacity in eight States and the District of Columbia.

Percent of jail

State capacity occupied


Virginia 160%

South Carolina 124

District of Columbia 121

New Jersey 120

Texas 115

California 113

Massachusetts 106

Washington 102

Pennsylvania 101

In eight other States, excluding Alaska, the total jail population was below 75% of the combined capacity of all local jails. The lowest occupancy rates were in North Dakota (43%), followed by Wyoming (52%), South Dakota (54%), and Montana (60%). Between 1988 and 1993 the capacity of the Nation's local jails increased by 40%, from 339,949 beds to 475,224. In eight States the capacity of local jails increased by more than 60% during the 5-year period. Jails in New Hampshire and Massachusetts experienced the largest percentage increase in capacity. During this period the combined capacities of jails declined in the following jurisdictions: West Virginia, Montana, and the District of Columbia.

In every census year, facilities with the largest average daily populations have reported the highest occupancy rates. In 1993 occupancy was 111% of rated capacity in jails with an average population of 1,000 or more inmates, compared to 67% in those with fewer than 50 inmates.

The 25 largest jail jurisdictions

In 1994 the Nation's 25 largest jail jurisdictions accounted for 30% of all jail inmates. The jurisdictions were in 12 States: 7 in California; 5 in Texas; 4 in Florida; and 1 each in New York, Illinois, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia, and Michigan.

New York City's system, with 15 institutions, had the largest number of facilities.

The two jurisdictions with the most inmates, Los Angeles County and New York City, together held more than 38,284, or 8% of the national total.

Overall, the 25 largest jurisdictions on June 30, 1994, had a total population of 149,082 inmates, 10% more than the 135,060 a year earlier.

In 1994, 15 jurisdictions reported having a larger average daily population than in 1993.

Dallas County, Texas, reported the largest single year growth--2,123 inmates--and the largest growth from 1988 to 1994--5,494. Shelby County (Memphis), Tennessee, reported the largest decrease from 1993 to 1994--1,327 inmates.

Local jail employees

Local jails employed an estimated 165,500 persons on June 30, 1993. Including all full-time and part-time, payroll and nonpayroll staff, the total staff grew by more than 100,000 between 1983 and 1993, an increase of 156%.

The staff total included 117,900 correctional officers, the employees most responsible for providing a secure environment and for directly supervising inmates. Correctional officers comprised about 7 in every 10 jail employees in the 3 censuses, 1983-93.

Characteristics of local jail staff

At midyear 1993 men comprised 70% of all paid jail staff and 76% of correctional officers. Excluded were nonpayroll jail employees, such as teachers or counselors, who were paid by agencies other than jails.

Between 1988 and 1993 the female staff in local jails nearly doubled, from 25,642 to an estimated 48,000. In 1993 nearly a third of all paid staff and a quarter of correctional officers were women. The race and ethnic composition of jail staff remained unchanged between 1988 and 1993. White employees made up an estimated 71% of the payroll jail staff in 1993, including 69% of the correctional officers.

Blacks comprised 22% of all employees, including 23% of the correctional officers. Hispanics accounted for 6% of the total paid staff and 7% of correctional officers.

Inmate-to-staff ratios, 1993

From 1983 to 1993 the number of U.S. jail employees increased 156%, as the number of correctional officers went up 165%. Jail staffs in the Northeast had the largest percentage increases--more than tripling in 10 years--while those in the Midwest had the smallest, more than doubling. The South, the region with the largest number of jail employees, registered the greatest regional growth (75%) from 1988 to 1993. The West, with less than half the number of employees in the South, also had the least growth in staff (50%). Throughout the period, 1983-93, the jail staff in the Nation and in every region grew more rapidly than the inmate population. In 1993 jails held 2.8 inmates per employee. The ratio in 1993 was almost a fifth lower than the 3.4 inmates per employee in 1988.

As a measure of workload, the number of inmates per correctional officer also declined, from 4.7 in 1988 to 3.9 in 1993. All four regions had decreases in inmate-to-correctional officer ratios. The West reported the sharpest decline, from 7.1 inmates per officer in 1983 to 5.3 in 1993. The smaller facilities had fewer inmates per correctional officer (2.4) than did larger jails (4.6 inmates per officer in the jails with a 1,000 or more inmates). The jails that were operating with an inmate population at least 10% over their rated capacity had an inmate-to-correctional officer ratio almost twice that of jails with less than 75% of capacity occupied. Jails with 91% to 110% of capacity filled employed a correctional officer for more than every 4 inmates.

Annual jail expenditures

Local jails throughout the United States spent a total of slightly over $9.6 billion during the year ending June 30, 1993. This estimated total (not adjusted for inflation) was more than double the $2.7 billion spent in 1983.

Approximately 71% of all reporting facilities were able to provide data on expenditures in 1993. These jails reported total annual expenditures were nearly $7.8 billion; operating costs, about $5.5 billion; and capital expenditures, $2.2 billion.

Gross salaries and wages, employer contributions to employee benefits, purchases of food, supplies, contractual services, and other current operating costs accounted for 71% of expenditures. Construction costs, major repairs, equipment, improvements, land purchases, and other capital outlays accounted for the remaining 29%. In 1988, operating costs made up 78% of all expenditures and capital outlays, 22%.

Average operating cost per inmate

Excluding capital outlays in 1993, the average cost to keep one jail inmate incarcerated for a year was $14,667. Over 10 years the cost per inmate had risen 57% from $9,360. (Adjusted for inflation to 1983 dollars the annual cost per inmate had decreased by 11%.) The Northeast had the highest average operating expenditure per inmate ($22,678) and the South, the lowest ($11,697). Excluding Alaska and the District of Columbia, average annual operating costs per inmate by State were highest in New York ( $29,297) and lowest in Mississippi ($7,014).

Inmate deaths

During the year ending June 30, 1993, 647 inmate deaths occurred in the jurisdiction of the jail authorities who provided data on such deaths. Although asked to report the death of inmates under the jurisdiction of jail authorities, regardless of where the death took place, some facilities could report only deaths that occurred on the jail premises. In addition, about 10% of all jails were unable to report whether any inmate deaths had occurred in 1993.

In 1993 illness was the leading cause of death in local jails (45%), followed by suicide (36%). Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) accounted for about 10% of reported inmate deaths; homicide, 3%; and other causes, 6%.

The death rate among jail inmates fell by more than a third between 1983 and 1993, from 232 to 149 per 100,000 inmates. While the rate of death from illness, including AIDS, remained relatively constant over the period, the rate of suicide declined sharply, from 129 per 100,000 in 1983, to 85 in 1988, to 54 in 1993.

Federal jails

In 1993 the Federal Bureau of Prisons maintained a small number of detention facilities that functioned as jails. These were not counted among the city, county, or regional adult detention facilities called local jails in this report. Local facilities, however, did hold about 12,000 persons for Federal authorities, according to data reported by 90% of all facilities. At midyear 1993 the Bureau of Prisons operated 7 jails, holding 5,899 persons who were awaiting adjudication or serving a sentence, usually of a year or less.

Inmate demographics

Ninety-three percent of Federal jail inmates were men, a slightly higher proportion than in local jails (90%). Seventy-two percent were white, 25% were black, and 3% were Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, or Alaska Natives.

Conviction status

Slightly more than half of the Federal inmates were unconvicted and were awaiting arraignment, trial, or the completion of their trial.

Facility capacity

The 7 Federal jails had a combined rated capacity of 3,810-the population being 155% of that capacity. The percent occupied was about 50% higher than that of local jails of comparable size.

Inmate deaths

Eight inmates died while under the jurisdiction of Federal jail authorities during the annual period ending June 30, 1993. Four deaths resulted from illness or natural causes, two were suicides, and two were drug overdoses.


Seventy-five percent of Federal jail employees were male, a higher percentage than the 70% of employees for local facilities. A majority of the Federal jail employees were correctional officers.

Overall, there were 2.9 inmates per staff member in Federal jails, about the same as in local facilities where the ratio was 2.8 inmates per employee. However, the number of inmates per correctional officer (5.5) was higher than in local jails with 500 to 999 inmates (4.4).


Federal jail expenditures totaled slightly more than $166 million during the annual period ending June 30, 1993, excluding those at the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, facility, in operation only a few months at the time of the census. Gross salaries and wages, contributions to employee benefits, purchases of food, supplies, contractual services, and other current operating costs accounted for 76% of expenditures. Construction costs, major repairs, equipment, improvements, land purchases, and other capital outlays made up the remaining 24%.

The average cost to house one Federal jail inmate during the year ending June 30, 1993, exclusive of capital expenditures was $22,773, as compared to $14,667 among local jails.


Number of facilities 7

Number of inmates 5,899

Male 5,490

Female 409

White 4,271

Black 1,462

Other 166

Status of inmates

Convicted 47%

Unconvicted 53%

Rated capacity 3,810

Percent of

capacity occupied 155%

Inmate deaths during annual period ending June 30, 1993 - 8


Illness/natural cause 4


Suicide 2

Homicide 0

Other* 2

Number of employees 2,009

Male 1,499

Female 510

Administrators 89

Correctional officers 1,080

Clerical and maintenance 263

Educational 26

Other** 551

Number of inmates per employee

All employees 2.9

Correctional officers 5.5

Annual expenditures***

Total $166,297,143

Capital 39,360,670

Operating 126,936,473

Operating cost per inmate**** $22,773

Note: Facilities are in Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; Miami, FL; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Otisville, NY; and Guaynabo, PR.

*Drug overdose.

**Professional and technical workers, such as public health service employees, case managers, facility managers, and transportation specialists.

***Excludes Guaynabo, PR, which had operated for only 4 months and was not fully occupied or staffed at the time of the census.

****Calculated by dividing operating costs for all facilities by average daily population (5,574).

Factors behind the growing jail population

An increasing number of arrests

Underlying the dramatic growth of the Nation's local jail population after 1983 was a rise in the number of arrests from 11.7 million in 1983 to 14.0 million in 1993. Over the 10-year period, the total number of arrests grew at an annual rate of 1.8%. For some offenses the annual rate of growth was substantially greater: simple assault (7.6%), aggravated assault (5.8%), drug abuse violations (5.4%), and weapons violations (3.9%).

The increase in arrests resulted in a growing number of admissions to local jails. On June 30, 1993, an estimated 26,800 persons were officially booked and admitted to local jails, and an additional 9,500 inmates were transferred in from other facilities or readmitted after having been temporarily released. The estimated number of new admissions totaled nearly 9.8 million for 1993, up from an estimated 6.0 million in the annual period ending June 30, 1983.

Among inmates facing felony charges, the likelihood of being held in a local jail prior to the disposition of their case remained nearly the same between 1988 and 1992. Based on the biennial National Pretrial Reporting Program (NPRP) that describes State felony defendants in the Nation's 75 most populous counties, an estimated 37% were held awaiting disposition in 1992. Roughly the same percentage was detained in 1988 (34%) and 1990 (35%). (Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants, BJS Bulletins, 1988 [February 1991, NCJ-127202], 1990 [November 1992, NCJ-139560], and 1992 [November 1994, NCJ-148818]).

More felons sentenced to local jail

The impact of more arrests and jail admissions was compounded by a growing number of felons receiving a sentence to local jail. Between 1986 and 1992 the number of convicted felons sentenced to confinement in local jails almost doubled:

Felons sentenced to local jails


Percent of all

Year Number convicted felons


1986 122,400 21%

1988 176,000 26

1990 207,300 25

1992 232,300 26



1986-92 90%

Source: Felony Sentences in State Courts (1986, 1988, 1990, and 1992).

Jail inmates received about the same average sentences Growth in the local jail population between 1983 and 1993 was not the result of longer sentences. Results from the National Judicial Reporting Program (NJRP) indicate that between 1988 and 1992, years in which comparable data on felons sentenced to local jails are available, the average (mean) maximum jail sentence among those entering jail remained constant. In 1988 and 1992 felons sentenced to local jail received a mean sentence of 7 months. (Felony Sentences in State Courts, BJS Bulletins, 1988 [December 1990, NCJ-126923], 1990 [March 1993, NCJ-149077], and 1992 [January 1995, NCJ-151167]).

Data from the 1983 and 1989 surveys of inmates in local jails also reveal no significant changes in the sentence lengths received by sentenced inmates overall, including felons and misdemeanants. About 50% of the jail inmates had been convicted and sentenced at the time of both surveys. (Profile of Jail Inmates, 1989, BJS Special Report [April 1991, NCJ-129097]). Between 1983 and 1989, there was an increase in the mean sentence (from 14 months to 17 months) but no change in the median. In both years half of the sentenced inmates had received a sentence of 6 months or less.

More drug offenders incarcerated in local jails

The largest source of growth among inmates in local jails was drug law violators. Based on data from inmate surveys in 1983 and 1989, the number of jail inmates charged or convicted of drug offenses rose from 20,800 to 91,000. In 1983 about 1 of every 10 inmates were in jail for a drug offense; in 1989 nearly 1 of every 4 were in jail for drugs. From 1983 to 1989 the increase in the number of persons in jail for drug offenses accounted for more than 40 percent of the total increase in the jail population.

Between 1983 and 1989 the percentage of jail inmates decreased for violent offenses (from 30.7% to 22.5%) and property offenses (from 38.6% to 30.0%), but increased for public-order offenses (from 20.6% to 22.8%). During this period, the total number of inmates increased in every category: violent offenders increased from 68,600 to 89,000; property offenders from 86,300 to 118,700; and public-order offenders from 46,100 to 90,200.

Although offense information for more recent years is not available, estimates may be made using 1989 percentages. Assuming no change in the percentage distributions, the estimated number of drug offenders in local jails in 1993 was more than 105,800, representing a 5-fold increase since 1983.

More jail inmates held for State/Federal authorities

The Nation's jail population also grew between 1983 and 1993 as a result of crowding in State and Federal prisons. On June 30, 1993, nearly 12% of all jail inmates were prisoners being held for State or Federal authorities. An estimated 53,900 inmates were held for State or Federal authorities in 1993, up from 17,281 in 1983.

Between 1983 and 1993 the number of inmates held for State and Federal authorities grew at twice the rate of the inmate population overall (212% compared with 106%).

Approximately 34,200 jail inmates in 1993 were in local facilities as a direct result of crowding of State or Federal facilities (representing 7.4% of all jail inmates). The other 19,700 inmates held for State or Federal authorities were in jail for other reasons, such as waiting transfer or early release (pending completion of paperwork or transportation), participation in special programs, and special security needs.


Census of Jails

The 1993 Census of Jails was the sixth in a series of data collection efforts aimed at studying the Nation's locally administered jails. Previous censuses were conducted in 1970, 1972, 1978, 1983, and 1988. As in previous censuses, the U.S. Bureau of the Census collected the data for the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The 1993 census included all locally administered confinement facilities (3,287) that hold inmates beyond arraignment and are staffed by municipal or county employees. The census also included 17 jails that were privately operated under contract for local governments and 7 facilities maintained by BOP and functioning as jails.

Excluded from the census were temporary holding facilities, such as drunk tanks and police lockups, that do not hold persons after being formally charged in court (usually within 72 hours of arrest). Also excluded were State-operated facilities in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont, which have combined jail-prison systems. Five locally operated jails in Alaska were included.

The mailing list used for the census was derived from the National Justice Agency List, which is maintained by the Bureau of the Census for BJS. The census forms were mailed to 3,506 facilities on June 22, 1993.

Twenty-eight jails were added to the initial mail out, and 230 were deleted, resulting in a total of 3,304 facilities.

After extensive follow-up, including additional mail requests and repeated telephone contacts, all jails (except those in one jurisdiction) provided data for four critical data items--number of inmates, average daily population, rated capacity, and sex of inmates housed. Data on the these four items for the nonresponding jails were imputed based on data reported in the 1994 Annual Survey of Jails.

Completed forms with data for all or most items were received for 2,981 jails, resulting in a 90% response rate. These reporting jails housed 93% of all local jail inmates on June 30, 1993.

Estimation procedures

Because there was nonresponse and incomplete data on all census items except the four critical items, national totals had to be estimated. The following procedures were used to estimate totals when data were incomplete:

1. Each item was first assessed for coverage and internal consistency. For purposes of estimating the totals, extreme values were examined and then verified by checking other census information or calling the respondents. Detailed categories were also checked to determine if they summed to the reported totals.

2. To provide a national total, item values were summed and then multiplied by a nonresponse adjustment factor (NAF). For most estimates, the NAF was a ratio of the total number of inmates in all jails to the number of inmates in jails that reported valid data. Ratios based on inmate counts were used to estimate the number of adults, the number of inmates by sex and age, conviction status by sex, the number of staff by occupational category and region (tables 11 and 13), and payroll staff by sex and race. Ratios based on the total average daily population were used to estimate total expenditures.

  1. Estimates of detailed categories were further adjusted so that for each item the sum of the detail equaled the estimated total. For example, the estimated numbers of male and female adult inmates were ratio adjusted so that the final estimates summed to the total number of adult inmates.
  2. All estimates of inmates and staff were rounded to the nearest 100. Expenditures were rounded to the nearest million dollars.

5. All rates, ratios, and percentage distributions in this report are based on reported data only.

Annual Survey of Jails

In each of the 4 years between the full censuses, a survey of jails is conducted to estimate baseline characteristics of the Nation's jails and inmates housed in these jails. The 1994 Annual Survey of Jails is the 10th such survey in a series begun in 1982. The reference date for the 1994 survey was June 30, 1994.

Using information from the 1993 Census of Jails, a new sample of jail jurisdictions was selected for the 1994 survey. A jurisdiction is a county (parish in Louisiana) or municipal government that administers one or more local jails. The sample included all jails in 796 selected jail jurisdictions and 23 multijurisdiction jails. A multi-jurisdiction jail is one in which two or more jurisdictions have a formal agreement to operate the facility.

In drawing the sample for 1994, jail jurisdictions were first stratified into two groups: single jurisdiction jails and multijurisdiction jails. All of the multi-jurisdiction jails were included in the survey. The remaining jurisdictions were then further stratified into two groups: jurisdictions with jails authorized to hold juveniles and jurisdictions with jails holding only adults. Jurisdictions were then selected based on the average daily population in the 1993 census. All jails in 203 jurisdictions were automatically included if the jurisdiction held juveniles and had an average daily population of 250 or more inmates in 1993 or if they held only adults and had an average population of 500 or more. The other jurisdictions (593) were then selected based on stratified probability sampling.

Data were obtained by mailed questionnaires. After follow-up phone calls to nonrespondents, the response rate for the survey was 100%.

National estimates for the inmate population on June 30, 1994, were produced by sex, race/Hispanic origin, and age group and for the average daily population during the year ending June 30, 1994. National estimates were also produced for rated capacity.

Sampling error

Survey estimates have an associated sampling error because jurisdictions with smaller average daily populations were sampled for the survey. Estimates based on the sample survey may differ somewhat from the results of conducting a complete census. Different samples could yield somewhat different results. Standard error is a measure of the variation among the estimates from all possible samples, stating the precision with which an estimate from a particular sample approximates the average of all possible samples. The estimated relative sampling error for the total inmate population of 490,442 on June 30, 1994, was 0.50%. (See appendix tables 1 and 2.)

Results presented in this Bulletin were tested to determine whether differences between 1993 census counts and 1994 survey estimates were statistically significant. All differences mentioned in the report meet or exceed the 95-percent confidence level.

Measures of population

Two measures of inmate population are used: the average daily population for the year ending June 30 and the inmate count on June 30 of each year. The average daily population balances out any extraordinary events that may render atypical the inmate count on June 30. The June 30 count provides data on characteristics of inmates, such as race, Hispanic origin, and age, that may not be available on an annual basis.


State statutes and judicial practices allow juveniles to be incarcerated in adult jails under a variety of circumstances. Because of the differing statutes and practices, however, accurate and comparable data on juveniles are difficult to collect. The 1994 Annual Survey of Jails provides new and more accurate estimates of the juvenile population. For the first time, the survey provides estimates of the total number of jail inmates under age 18, the number held as adults, and the number held as juveniles. New sampling procedures were also introduced in 1994 to minimize the standard errors of these estimates. By stratifying jurisdictions based on the authority to house juveniles, the precision of the juvenile counts were improved.

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