If you ask an average Joe, What is the difference between a Jail and a Prison, they could probably say they are the same thing. Most times, people who are incarcerated, or people who have loved ones that are locked behind bars often are unable to tell the difference between a Jail vs Prison.

In this article, I will be explaining the difference between a jail and a prison, in order to help you understand how to identify each institution. I will also be explaining the principles guiding incarceration in jail vs incarceration in prison, which is one of the main goals of this content.

Jail Vs Prison: Jail

Easily stated, a jail is a place where suspects are held temporarily. The term “suspects” is used because in most cases, these people who are incarcerated in jail have not been sentenced. As an example, if a person is picked up by the police for a misdemeanor or a felony, they are first held in a police or sheriff holding cell.

day for day in prison

Police Holding Cells

A lot of police and sheriff holding cells are not built for long term incarceration. Consequently, these suspects are then moved to a facility that is able to feed them properly, and take care of their medical and other needs, until they can speak to a judge for bail, or until they face trial.

In comparison to holding cells which are usually built in the form of cages with iron bars, Jails have actual cells built out of concrete with iron doors. Jails can also accommodate hundreds to thousands of people at a time, unlike holding cells that max out as soon as the population is getting close to the tens.

While Holding cells are built to hold suspects over a few hours or days, Jails are able to hold suspects for as much as a few weeks to a couple of months. There are also certain situations where suspects are held in jail for up to a year. Notwithstanding, the time a person spends in Jail also counts towards their prison sentence if they end up with a conviction.

Quite shockingly, a lot of institutions which we often thought were prisons are actually jails. Jails are often small local facilities within a county/city/town/region and in certain countries, are referred to as a Remand Centre. IN most cases, people who go to jail are those who have broken a state/municipal law which can also be referred to as a summary offence. They usually bag a jail term with max 2 years less a day.

Jail Vs Prison: Prison

Prisons are the bigger deal. They are usually under the jurisdiction of the state or the federal government. Prisons are often reserved for people who are convicted of an indictable offence. These offences are very serious and can fetch a sentencing term of 2 years plus a day, up to life imprisonment.

Generally, people who break a state law are mostly sentenced to serve their terms in state prisons while people who break federal laws are sentenced and made to serve their sentencing in federal prison institutions.

Simple Difference Between A Jail Vs A Prison

Consequently, you will realize that while anyone can be put in jail as a suspect, however, only people who have been found guilty, and sentenced for their crimes, are actually put in prison to serve their sentences.

I am hopeful that next time you find yourself in a quagmire, as you try to figure out the best words or phrase to use, you will remember this brief piece of content that has easily spelled out the difference between a Jail and a Prison

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