The Difference between Jail and Prison

The Difference between Jail and Prison

The type of facility a convicted criminal will serve their time depends on the level and severity of the crime, the class of the crime, and the type of crime committed. In the following article, I will explain the difference between jail and prison while also mentioning federal prison. Focus will be given to the offense committed by the inmate.

County Jail

County jails are funded and run by the county or city government.

People who are sent to County Jails fit one of three criteria:

  • The person was just arrested and is being for a plea bargain, trial, or sentencing.
  • County Jails also act as holding cells for those who were transferred and are awaiting transportation to State or Federal Prison.
  • People who have only been convicted of misdemeanors and are serving shorter sentences; usually only a year or less.

State Prison

State prisons are funded and run by the state or federal government, and are often referred to as penitentiaries.

People are sent to State Prison if they fit these criteria:

  • The person has been convicted of a felony criminal offense and is serving a sentence longer than a year.
  • Those who are released from prison are usually released under the supervision of parole officers, halfway houses, or other type of community program.

Federal Prison

Federal Prisons are funded and run by the federal government. The requirements of being sentenced to federal prison are much stricter than any other correctional facility.

People are sent to Federal Prison if they commit the following types of crimes:

  • If the person committed a crime on federal property, like a national park or military base.
  • If the person committed a crime against a federal officer, like a DEA or FBI agent.
  • If the person commits a crime across state lines; like kidnapping or murdering a victim and driving them through several states.
  • If the person commits a crime that involves immigration or customs violations; such as human trafficking.

Further reading:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics – Information on correctional population in the United States