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Profile of Prison Inmates, 2016

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2021

This report describes the characteristics of state and federal prisoners in 2016, including demographics, education, and marital status. Findings are based on data from BJS’s 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI), which is conducted periodically and consists of personal interviews with prisoners. For the first time, the 2016 SPI measured sexual orientation and gender identity, and those estimates are included in this report. Statistics on prisoners’ offenses, time served, prior criminal history, and any housing status prior to imprisonment, including homelessness, are also presented. The report concludes with a summary of the family background of prisoners while they were growing up and any family members who have ever been incarcerated.


State prisoners

  • The percentage of state prisoners who were incarcerated for a violent offense increased between 2004 (48%) and 2016 (56%).
  • Among state prisoners, males had criminal histories that averaged nine arrests during their lifetime and five prior incarcerations, compared to females, who averaged eight lifetime arrests and four prior incarcerations.
  • On average, male state prisoners (16 years) were serving longer sentences than female state prisoners (10 years) in 2016.

Federal prisoners

  • Almost half of federal prisoners in 2016 were serving a sentence for a drug offense (48%), while about a third were sentenced for a public order offense (31%), including weapons and immigration offenses.
  • Male federal prisoners had more arrests during their lifetime (7 on average) than female federal prisoners (5), but they had the same average number of prior incarcerations (about 3 each).
  • Male federal prisoners (12 years) in 2016 were serving longer sentences on average than female federal prisoners (8 years).

Date Published: December 16, 2021