What is the Difference between Jail and Prison?

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 | 1 comment

Despite the differences between jails and prisons, the terms are often used interchangeably. Many people do not realize it, but there are numerous legal and operational distinctions between these two types of correctional facilities. For starters, jails are overlooked by their city or state governments, while prisons are managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Jails are smaller, more common, and are used to impound persons who are in the following situations:

  • Cannot pay bail
  • Are awaiting their trial
  • Serving a short sentence (usually less than a year)
  • Just arrested as a criminal suspect

Because of the temporary nature of the reasons an individual may be in jail, jails are not equipped with many amenities. People in jail have basic living quarters, but that’s about as far as the provided amenities go.

Contrast that with prisons, which are fewer than jails, but typically much larger and feature numerous amenities that are not found in jails. This is due to the nature of the long sentences being served by prison inmates. Prisons often have churches, exercise areas, libraries, and even schools.

However, the security at a prison is a lot more strict than in a jail because of the kinds of inmates they hold. Prisons are used to house people who have already been convicted of crimes and are serving long-term sentences. Prison wings are normally divided up by the type of crimes their inhabitants were found guilty of. This helps keep nonviolent offenders away from those who are serving sentences for violent crimes. Due to the longevity of most sentences, prisoners develop complex internal social and political structures among themselves which can even reach as far as to include the guards.

Facing jail or prison time because of a criminal accusation against you can be terrifying. People who are being accused of crimes can have a criminal defense lawyer provided to them by the state so they can stand a chance of adequately fighting the charges against them.

One Comment

  1. www.guthrielegal.com says:

    Whether it’s prison or jail, I still would prefer not to end up in one. Hopefully a criminal defense lawyer could keep me out of prison though.

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