Prison vs Jail: What Are the Differences?

By Alex
March 29, 2022

Did you know that there are currently 2 million individuals in our nation’s prisons and jails?

We have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and thousands find themselves behind bars each year. Depending on the circumstances, individuals can find themselves detained in either a jail or a prison.

But what are the major differences between these two types of detention centers? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about prison vs jail.


Read on for everything you need to know.

What is a Jail?

A jail is a county-run institution that deals with suspects and convicted criminals. The typical jail population mainly comprises suspects who are awaiting trial. Some convicts with lesser sentences may also see out their sentence at a county jail.

County jails house everyone from public intoxication offenders to individuals charged with murder. They are typically the first step into the detention system following the police interview and charging process.

When individuals get charged with a crime, they will be detained in jail until their bail hearing. During the bail hearing, the judge will determine whether or not the defendant is eligible for parole. If they are not granted bail, the defendant will go back to jail until their court date.

When someone goes missing, there’s a chance they’re in your local county jail. The process for checking your jail will vary state by state. If you’re in Greene County, check out jailexchange.com to find out.

What is a Prison?

While a jail houses individuals awaiting trial and minor criminals, prison is an institution that houses convicted felons while they see out their sentences.

Following a criminal trial, defendants will either be going home or going to prison. Individuals will go to either a low, mid, or maximum security facility, depending on their sentence.

Also, Read How Does a Past Criminal Record Affect Getting Bail?

In prison, inmates have access to jobs, yard time, and medical help if needed. Visiting prison can be arranged by applying to join a prisoner’s approved visitor list. Visiting privileges vary from state to state and can be suspended at the prison’s discretion. Check your local state laws before applying.

An individual may stay at one or more federal prisons during their sentence. After a certain amount of mandatory time served, prison inmates become eligible for parole. During the parole hearing, the inmate’s behavior, sense of remorse, and general engagement will be considered.

Prison vs Jail: Know the Difference

If you or someone you know is caught up in the criminal justice system, understanding the difference between prison vs jail is crucial. You’ll need to make a plan for how to stay in contact during incarceration and how to prepare.

We hope this guide points you in the right direction moving forward.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog. We host a range of informative content and discussions.


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