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Jail vs Prison – What’s The Difference?

Jail vs Prison – What’s The Difference?

One of my biggest pet peeves since I was incarcerated for nearly four years on marijuana charges is that people confuse the words “jail” and “jail.” Yes, they are both legal incarceration facilities, but there is a big difference between a jail and a jail.

I’m not sure why the interchange of these two words upsets me, but I guess it may have something to do with the lack of understanding among American citizens about our criminal justice system.

The funny thing is, when I was first sentenced and awaiting transfer in the county jail, I didn’t know the difference between the two. However, other inmates told me that being in prison is “much better” than being in prison. I couldn’t understand them at the time, but I quickly understood what they meant.

Because this topic is so important to me, this blog post is my attempt to clear up confusion about the difference between jail and prison. Which leads us to today’s topic: Prison vs Prison – What’s the Difference?

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • What are the characteristics of American prisons?
  • What are the characteristics of American prisons?
  • What do prisons and jails have in common?

What are the characteristics of American prisons?

Typically, a prison is a short-term local facility for persons awaiting trial or sentencing. They are usually managed by local law enforcement in the county or city and only maintain one level of security. Prisoners generally spend much less time in prison than they do in prison. However, due to the slow court system, prisoners can sit in jail for years without conviction.

Jails are smaller facilities that house prisoners in traditional cells. Depending on configuration, inmates in prisons may spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells. In my county jail, we were allowed to spend a few hours a day in a break room outside our cells.

Jails are where police hold people arrested for any crime — from minor traffic violations to murder. The facility usually has holding cells where they are held on their first arrest, separate from other held prisoners, but if the person cannot be released on bail, they are held in the general population until they can or until they leave go to trial.

This means that the population of the prison is characterized by casual prisoners, and the constant flow of people in and out of the prison makes the prison noisy and chaotic. It’s hard to sleep in prison, the food is terrible, and it’s pretty boring.

Prisons typically do not provide inmates with programs, such as education or therapy, and inmates often fend for themselves in “pods” with other inmates. Officers are rarely inside the pods, instead monitoring the movements of prisoners via video. The A&E series is a great look at prison life 60 days. There is also no exercise or activity of any kind, and prisoners are rarely, if ever, allowed to go outside for fresh air because the prison has no yard.

Living conditions in prisons are usually much worse than in prisons. The walls were covered in mold, nothing worked properly, and the cells were small and rarely cleaned.

People who were sentenced for misdemeanor crimes, or whose sentences were less than a year, were usually held in jail.

What are the characteristics of American prisons?

Prisons are facilities under the jurisdiction of the state or federal government where convicted prisoners for felonies serve longer sentences. People convicted of violating state laws are usually sent to state prisons, while those convicted of violating federal laws are sent to federal prisons somewhere in the United States.

Prisons are designed for long-term incarceration, so they usually have a campus where prisoners live, work and go to school. Essentially, a prison is a small community within its own walls, and inmates work hard to make it work.

Of course, all of this depends on the security level of the facility. Supermax and maximum security prisons are much stricter, with prisoners typically locked in cells 23 hours a day and movement within the camp is restricted.

However, at lower security levels, prisoners are allowed out of their cells for most of the day, and they can move between buildings for school, work, canteen, medical, recreational and programming activities. Many of these facilities feature dormitory-style housing rather than traditional prison cells.

Prison guards are everywhere, inside the residential units, outside the yards, and in every building in the camp. Prisoners are searched wherever they go, but it is much easier to lead a “normal life” in prison than in prison.

Being incarcerated is the worst, but if you can choose between prison and prison, prison is usually a better place.

What do prisons and jails have in common?

Prisoners and prison inmates are entitled to visits from family and friends. They also have basic prisoner rights, including the right to humane treatment, freedom from cruel or unusual punishment, and freedom from sexual crimes.

Both prison and prison inmates have the right to access courtrooms and law libraries to plead their cases, and they also have the right to basic medical care. However, prisoners’ access to medical care is scarce and varies by location.

Are you surprised that prisons are worse than prisons? Let us know in the comments below.


The Real Difference Between Jail and Prison

What is the difference between jail and prison?