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Publication Veterans in Prison and Jail, 2011-2012

Jennifer Bronson, Ph.D., E. Ann Carson, Ph.D., Margaret E. Noonan, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Marcus Berzofsky, Dr. P.H., RTI International

December 7, 2015    NCJ 249144

Presents counts and rates of veterans in state and federal prison and local jail in 2011 and 2012. This report describes incarcerated veterans by demographic characteristics, military characteristics, and disability and mental health status. It describes current offense, sentencing, and criminal history characteristics by veteran status. It also examines combat experience associated with lifetime mental health disorders among incarcerated veterans. Findings are based on data from the National Inmate Survey, conducted between February 2011 and May 2012. Data from previous BJS surveys of inmates in prison and jail are used to establish historical trends regarding incarcerated veterans.


  • The number of veterans incarcerated in state and federal prison and local jail decreased from 203,000 in 2004 to 181,500 in 201112.
  • The total incarceration rate in 201112 for veterans (855 per 100,000 veterans in the United States) was lower than the rate for nonveterans (968 per 100,000 U.S. residents).
  • Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic inmates made up a significantly smaller proportion of incarcerated veterans (38% in prison and 44% in jail), compared to incarcerated non-Hispanic black and Hispanic nonveterans (63% in prison and 59% in jail).
  • A greater percentage of veterans (64%) than nonveterans (48%) were sentenced for violent offenses.
  • An estimated 43% of veterans and 55% of nonveterans in prison had four or more prior arrests.

Part of the Veterans in State and Federal Prisons Series

Press Release
Summary (PDF 247K)
Full report (PDF 541K)
ASCII file (34K)
Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 35K)

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National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) Program

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