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Disabilities Among Prison and Jail Inmates, 2011-12

NCJ Number
Jennifer Bronson; Laura M. Maruschak; Marcus Berzofsky
Date Published
December 2015
1 page
This is a summary of a full report on disabilities among State and Federal prisoners based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Inmate Survey for 2011-12, with attention to the prevalence of inmate disabilities compared with the non- institutionalized U.S. population, disabilities by inmate characteristics, and other health conditions of disabled inmates.

Presents the prevalence of disabilities among prison and jail inmates, detailing the prevalence of six specific disability types: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living. Important differences in each type of disability are highlighted by demographic characteristics. The report also assesses the prevalence of disabilities with other health problems, such as a current chronic condition, obesity, ever having an infectious disease, and past 30-day serious psychological distress. Findings are based on prison and jail inmate self-reported data from BJS's 2011-12 National Inmate Survey (NIS-3). Data from the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) and 2009-2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) were used to compare the incarcerated populations to the noninstitutionalized general population.

  • An estimated 32% of prisoners and 40% of jail inmates reported having at least one disability.
  • Prisoners were nearly 3 times more likely and jail inmates were more than 4 times more likely than the general population to report having at least one disability.
  • About 2 in 10 prisoners and 3 in 10 jail inmates reported having a cognitive disability, the most common reported disability in each population .
  • Female prisoners were more likely than male prisoners to report having a cognitive disability, but were equally likely to report having each of the other five disabilities.
  • Non-Hispanic white prisoners (37%) and prisoners of two or more races (42%) were more likely than non-Hispanic black prisoners (26%) to report having at least one disability.
  • More than half of prisoners (54%) and jail inmates (53%) with a disability reported a co-occurring chronic condition.