Difference Between a Jail and a Prison
Published Nov 28, 2021
While the terms “jail” and “prison” are frequently used interchangeably, they serve distinct purposes. The key difference between jail and prison is that jails are designed for short sentences and temporary confinement, whereas prisons are intended for felony sentences exceeding one year.
Understanding What Jails Are
County governments generally operate jails under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff. They are designed for shorter stays and serve a smaller population than prisons. Additionally, smaller detention facilities are still classified as jails and are operated by municipal governments. These facilities are used to detain individuals for a few hours or days before transferring to a larger jail.
Prisons house two distinct populations at any given time. The first category includes individuals convicted of relatively minor offenses such as misdemeanors or probation violations. The second group consists of innocent individuals. A sizable proportion of those imprisoned are in the pre-trial stage and have been either denied bail or are unable to pay. These individuals may have no prior convictions, depending on the severity of their charge.
Since the 1980s, the proportion of pre-trial detainees in the jail population has increased. The proportion used to be around 50% but has since grown to approximately 75%.
Understanding What Prisons Are
Prisons are for those who have been convicted of felonies. Although a jail sentence is possible for more minor felonies, a prison sentence is a norm. Prisons are typically much larger than jails and are run by the state or federal government. Certain prisons are privately run. Arizona has sixteen prisons, six of which are privately owned.
While prisons are not pleasant places, they provide additional services to their residents. They offer a range of educational opportunities, including GED classes. Although it may seem counterintuitive, inmates have greater freedom of movement within prisons. They are assigned tasks and allotted time in a large, outdoor yard.
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Difference Between Jail and Prison
Prison is defined as “a place of confinement reserved for lawbreakers,” while jail is defined as “a place of confinement reserved for persons held in lawful custody.” Many people believe that each of these terms has a distinct meaning and should never be used interchangeably.
Issues with Jails
Since jails are designed for shorter stays, they typically have fewer services than a standard prison. Inmates have complained about insufficient medical care, a lack of nutritional food, and inappropriate movement restrictions, such as a lack of access to exercise. Individuals with a criminal history or those who anticipate conviction may be compelled to accept a plea in order to avoid being sentenced to prison. This desire to exit jail as quickly as possible may result in an inmate accepting a plea deal that is less than favorable to him or her.
Another serious issue with jails and their conditions is that they detain innocent people. While it may be necessary to detain someone before conviction in certain circumstances, the presumption of innocence means that they cannot be punished until their guilt is established. The inhumane conditions in jail act as a form of punishment. This is one of the reasons why having an attorney present at a bond hearing can be so beneficial. It can mean the difference between being released before trial and being forced to serve months in jail.
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About The Author
Krizzia Paolyn is an SEO Specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. It has always been her passion to share her voice, and at the same time, to encourage other people to speak up.