In any given year, approximately 11 million individuals are booked into county jails to await trial or to serve sentences for misdemeanor offenses. Yet we know very little about these individuals, why they have been incarcerated, or the consequences of that incarceration.

The Jail Data Initiative, a joint project of the Social Science Research Council and New York University’s Public Safety Lab, is collecting daily person-level jail records in over 1,300 counties to enable the research and policy communities to better understand the causes and consequences of jail incarceration. Daily person-level data are converted into booking records with several associated data fields, including name, age, gender, race/ethnicity, booking charges, booking and release dates, and whether and when a released individual is rebooked into the same jail. The Jail Data Initiative also collects any other information reported on online jail rosters, including bail and bond information. The Jail Data Initiative’s dashboard allows users to visualize and download daily facility-level jail data; users may also request permission to access a restricted database containing individual-level records.

Through the generous support of Arnold Ventures, the Jail Data Initiative is currently supporting a post-doctoral fellow to conduct analyses of the causal effects of newly enacted policies on both the incidence of jail incarceration and the downstream consequences of that incarceration. These policies include state statutes reducing judicial discretion to release defendants without requiring cash bail, and increasing minimum bail amounts for misdemeanor offenses. Researchers and others seeking access to the restricted Jail Data Initiative data may apply for access here.

Funders & Partners