Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) conducts a range of continuous censuses and surveys of federal, state, and local correctional facilities and their populations, as well as of probation populations. These systems collect data on the number of people sentenced to incarceration (and probation) nationwide, as well as on a wide variety of the features, programs, and services of all correctional facilities in the United States. The systems provide information on the personal characteristics and criminal histories of adjudicated adults, including information on their patterns of past drug use and its proximity to the offense for which they are currently sentenced.
The number of state and federal prisoners in the United States are counted semiannually, through an interagency agreement with the Bureau of the Census. A complete count of state and federal prison facilities is made every five years, also using the Bureau of the Census as the collection agent. A similar jail census and several prison and jail inmate surveys are carried out every five years. The inmate surveys are conducted through in-person interviews with large national probability-based samples of inmates.
In addition to past drug use patterns, these data provide information on the availability and characteristics of drug testing and treatment programs in correctional facilities. Facilities that conduct drug tests are able to report on current drug use for some inmate samples. Information on inmate exposure to treatment, both before and during incarceration, is also available. BJS integrates data from these and other sources to develop detailed reports of trends and descriptive information on the drug involvement of offender populations under correctional supervision (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000a, 2000b, 1999b, 1999c, 1998, 1997a, 1997b, 1994a, 1994b, 1993). The most important of the BJS correctional data collections, for purposes of this report, are described below.
The National Prisoner Statistics program produces semiannual (June 30 and December 31) data on the numbers of prisoners in state and federal prison facilities (Beck, 2000a, 2000b). The federal government has published data annually on the prisoner count in each State, the District of Columbia, and the Federal prison system since 1926. This census is an effort to collect comparable data from all states and federal facilities. The data collection form, although brief, provides relatively rich detail. For example, the questionnaire distinguishes among 10 categories of new admissions and 19 categories of release circumstances. Data are also collected on sentence status, the racial and ethnic composition of the inmate