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Publication Veterans in Prison: 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 252646

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. The brief describes incarcerated veterans by demographic, offense, sentencing and military characteristics, including military branch, combat experience, and discharge type.


  • An estimated 107,400 veterans were serving time in state or federal prison in 2016—the majority (98%) of which were male.
  • The majority of male veterans in state (56%) and federal (53%) prison served in the Army.
  • About 1 in 4 male veterans in state (28%) and 1 in 5 in federal (21%) prison were combat veterans.
  • An estimated 74% of male veterans in state prison and 77% of those in federal prison received an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions.
  • Male veterans in state prison (26%) were twice as likely as male non-veterans in state prison (12%) to be serving time for a violent sexual offense.

Part of the Veterans in State and Federal Prisons Series

Full report (PDF 400K)
Data tables (Zip format 700K)

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Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI)

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