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State and Federal Corrections Information Systems: An Inventory of Data Elements and an Assessment of Reporting Capabilities (Executive Summary)

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 1998
15 pages
This report presents the findings of an inventory and assessment of more than 200 data elements in State and Federal corrections information systems.
During January 1998, an inventory questionnaire and obstacles survey were mailed to information officers in departments of corrections in 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Additional telephone interviews were conducted to obtain background information on systems architecture and capabilities. The inventory contained 242 questions about data elements and capacities of information systems. Of these, 207 questions were about offender-based data elements, 15 were about facilities, and 20 were about capacities to link data. For each of the 207 questions about offender-based elements, the questionnaire asked officials whether they maintained the element. Those departments that maintained a data element were asked how it is stored and for what percentage of offenders it is collected. The obstacles survey collected information on barriers information officials encounter in producing statistical information in response to queries about offenders. The survey was organized into five categories: institutional and legal, staffing, software, hardware, and data. Officials in all 52 departments responded to the inventory and telephone interviews, and 51 returned the obstacles survey. Responses show that corrections departments collect a common core of data elements. The majority of core data elements describe who enters prison; what they have done; why they entered prison; how long they can expect to stay; their risk, needs, and confinement characteristics; their post-commitment movements; and how and to whom they are released from prison. The common core also measures the behavior of offenders after release. There is relatively little common information regarding program participation, drug- testing results, medical services, misconduct, infractions, responses to misconduct, the crimes and victims of crimes committed by offenders on release in the community, or about offenders' connections with mainstream institutions, such as labor markets. This report notes that staffing and software pose obstacles to providing statistical information. The report concludes with suggestions for the development of a broader effort to develop comparative corrections data and performance measures. For the full report, see NCJ-170016. 3 tables

Date Published: August 1, 1998