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Estimating Incidence and Cumulative Incidence of Incarceration Using NCRP Data

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2021
38 pages

This paper describes a new methodology for estimating the incidence and cumulative incidence of imprisonment in the United States.


Intended as a complement to the survey-based approach, the new methodology uses administrative data that the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) routinely collects in the National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP), which is updated annually. This paper explains estimation for states that report for long periods, for states that report for short periods, and states for which the NCRP team cannot construct reliable term records. The goal is to produce national estimates. After providing definitions, the new method is compared with the complementary survey-based method of Bonezar. In developing its argument, the paper begins with estimates for a single state (Georgia), adapts the estimates to include 18 states with lengthy observation periods, and then extends the estimate to include all states. Despite the differences in methodology, the survey-based estimates and the NCRP-based estimates are in substantive agreement, indicating that the two methods are complementary. Since the NCRP-based estimates are inexpensive to assemble, the NCRP provides a useful platform for nearly real-time updates of trends in incidence. Without the NCRP, comparable statistics are difficult to assemble and update in a timeframe that makes them most useful for policy development. The survey-based estimates continue to provide distinctive insight into prevalence. 9 figures, 2 tables, 30 references, and appended review of racial disparity

Date Published: June 1, 2021