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Publication Disabilities Reported by Prisoners: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016

Laura M. Maruschak, BJS Statistician, Jennifer Bronson, Ph.D., Mariel Alper, Ph.D., former BJS Statisticians

March 30, 2021    NCJ 252642

This brief presents findings based on data collected in the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates, a survey conducted through face-to-face interviews with a national sample of state and federal prisoners across a variety of topics, such as their demographic characteristics, socio-economic background, health, and involvement with the criminal justice system. This brief on disabilities details statistics about demographics and types of disabilities reported by prisoners.


  • Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) state and federal prisoners had at least one disability in 2016.
  • The most commonly reported type of disability among both state and federal prisoners was a cognitive disability (23%), followed by ambulatory (12%) and vision (11%) disabilities.
  • Among all prisoners, 24% reported that a doctor, psychologist, or teacher had told them at some point in their life that they had an attention deficit disorder.
  • Nearly a quarter of all prisoners reported participating in special education classes (24%).
  • State and federal prisoners (38%) were about two and a half times more likely to report a disability than adults in the U.S. general population (15%).

Full report (PDF 410K)
Data tables (Zip format 11K)

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Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI)

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