Difference between Jail And Prison

Difference Between Jail and Prison

Jail and prison are legal institutions used to keep convicts locked up for as long as they are sentenced. The difference between jail and prison is actually not difficult to understand and to decipher. While they are both similar in many ways, the differences between them are pretty stark too.

Before we dive into discussing jail and prison in details, here is a brief definition for each. First, the word prison is used to refer to the correctional facility or a penitentiary holding that convicts with life-long sentences or long sentences in generals are sent to.

On the other hand, Jail is a holding cell where defendants are imprisoned for a period of time, either for minor or petty crimes. Some of the convicts are also hold up in jail as they await their trial.

On that note, let us learn more about the differences between jail and prison in this article details.

The Difference between Jail and Prison

The discourse of jail vs prison is a common one as often people believe they are the same. However, that is not right as jail and prison play majorly different roles for the convicts.

We have composed a list of the utmost differences between jail and prison and mentioned them below to understand easily.

  • Jails hold up a smaller number of people compared to prisons. However, prisons contain a large number of people, with a population exceeding hundreds and thousands.
  • People in jail are often convicted for petty or minor crimes or for awaiting their trials. People in prisons are believed to be dangerous criminals who are believed to be a danger to society and their own selves.
  • Prisons are institutes under the jurisdiction of the state, whereas jails are institutions under the county’s jurisdiction.
  • People in jails stay there for a short period of time, perhaps from few hours to few days or at times months. But, on the other hand, people in prisons are sentenced for decades or a lifetime.
  • Prisons have more movement freedom, such as exercises, prison jobs, prison GED classes etc., than jails do for the inmates. In jails, inmates cannot do anything but merely sit and wait in the holding cell.
  • It is also claimed that prisons provide better food than jails do.
  • Lastly, a lot of jails living condition is allegedly worse than living conditions in prison.

Who’s Sitting in Jail? And for How Long?

People in jail are held up there for various reasons, from minor inconvenience to major crimes, for a short period of time. Study shows about 11 million people go in and out of jails per year.

If you wonder what kind of people or defendants find themselves in jail to serve their sentence or remain in confinement, read the list below.

  • When convicts are not yet sentenced.
  • When a defendant cannot get bail while they await their trial for a crime they committed.
  • When a defendant committed a misdemeanour crime and is sentenced to a year or less jail time.
  • At times a defendant will have to wait in jail before moving to another jail or a federal or state facility.
  • Defendants who are condemned and sentenced to prison need to wait until they are transferred to prison.
  • If a defendant is imprisoned on Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds.
  • Defendants who are on probation or parole hold and awaiting a further decision.

Jail time differs depending on the crime for which the defendants are held. It could be either for a night, i.e. a petty offence for breaking the law, or for months or a year, i.e. the convict is awaiting trial or waiting transfer.

However, keep in mind that no convicts sentenced for decades or a life sentence will remain in jail longer than necessary.

Who’s Sitting in Prison? And for How Long?

On the other hand, prison consists of people who committed serious crimes, like first-degree murder, and needs to be punished for their crimes. The prison system is more severe and harsher than the jail system as prison becomes a lifestyle for more than half of its resident.

We have made a list of people who might find themselves in prison:

  • Convicts who are sentenced to more than a year to life imprisonment.
  • Convicts who do not have a possibility of getting parole.
  • Offenders who are on death row.
  • Prisons consist of inmates who committed a crime from both the state and out-of-state, as many are transferred.
  • Offenders who committed federal crimes.

As mentioned above, inmates of prisons often spend years or a lifetime in the facility. Yet, time and again, many inmates leave the prison after they pass away. At the same time, many will serve their sentence and can go on parole.

What Types of Prisons Exist?

There are several types of prison that have been established over the course of many decades. They each serve different purposes and hold convicts of different categories.

In the list below, we have mentioned the types of prison that we all should know about.

  • Military Prisons
  • Juvenile Detention Centers
  • Federal Prisons
  • State Prisons
  • Psychiatric Prisons
  • High-Security Prisons
  • Medium Security Prisons
  • Minimum Security Prisons

To Conclude

Jails and prisons are believed to be equally crucial for our community. They are the correctional facility where the convicts are supposed to get the chance to reform and better themselves. However, while that might have been the initial idea when these institutions were established, they are no longer used for that purpose.

Hardened and dangerous criminals who are convicted for crimes such as murder, rape, terrorism etc., are required to be isolated from society for their own safety and the safety of the community. Some of the convicts might be innocent, which is why the jury and the entire legal teams need to be cautious about making such decisions.

Nevertheless, it is vital to acquire knowledge about the difference between jails and prisons. Of course, you might only need to use this knowledge in theory. But if you ever need to use it in practice, you have enough information in your arsenal now to be prepared.



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