whats the difference between jail and prison and what factors depend on where you go?

just wondering because another person had asked a similar question.


any priveledges in one or the other that they don't have in the other

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Jail: A place of detention; a place where a person convicted or suspected of a crime is detained.

    Prison: A place of long-term confinement for those convicted of serious crimes.

    The most notable difference is that prison inmates have been tried and convicted of crimes, while those in jail may be awaiting trial. A prison is under the jurisdiction of either federal or state, while the jail holds people accused under federal, state, county and/or city laws. A jail holds inmates from two days up to one year.

    Note that this definition does not apply in the UK. Also, "Jail" may be spelt "Gaol".


    Jails are locally operated places of incarceration — usually the county runs the jail. There are about 3,600 jails in the U.S.

    Prisons are operated by the state government, or by the federal government (the federal Bureau of Prisons).

    Since jails are within the county where the individual was arrested, the jail isn’t very far away.

    A state or federal prison could be very far away from a convicted person’s home and family. There are only about 100 federal prisons, detention centers, and correctional institutions in the U.S.

    A person who is being held in custody before a trial/has not yet paid bail/was only recently arrested will be held at a local jail, not in prison.

    Jails are also a place for people who have been convicted of relatively minor crimes. A jail sentence rarely exceeds a year or two.

    Defendants who are convicted of state crimes will serve their time in a state prison. Those who are convicted of a federal crime will serve their sentence in a federal prison.

    Jails don’t have many amenities for people serving time there, since they won’t be there for very long (although a jail sentence can seem like a very very long time). A county jail may have a work release program and services to combat substance abuse and address vocational needs of its inmates — or it may provide only the basic necessities of housing, food, and safety.

    Prisons often have work release programs, a halfway house service, classrooms for vocational training, and recreation and entertainment facilities. Some prison inmates are going to be there for decades or for a lifetime.



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  • Vasso
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    To most people the two terms would be synomomous. But I believe Jail is a word used to describe a short incarceration term and temporary while Prison denotes a place for post-sentencing incarceration, usually to finish the sentence.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I am not 100% sure , but I think that the difference between jail and prison is jail is more like a temporary place like if you get a DUI or traffic offense or something more minor like a misdemeanor where as prison is more permanent like if you get a felony or are being locked up for years for crimes such as drugs heavy like sales or having a larger amount that what is on the books as a misdemeanor or fraud or murder or rape etc. Prison is for hard criminals (felon's) and jail is for light criminals (misdemeanors).

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  • 1 decade ago

    In Mass. it's if you doing 2yrs or under it's jail(county time). Over 2yrs prison(state time). The factors of each are what kind of record you have. You could have done a misdemeanor this time but if you have a bad record they may decide to give you state time or they could charge you with being an habitual offender and give you 20yrs. to whatever.

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  • Kathy
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Though they are similar, jails are not the same as prisons. Prisons are large facilities that hold large numbers of people for long terms; jails are usually smaller and hold smaller numbers of people for short terms. Prisons confine only convicted criminals; jails can hold convicted criminals, but usually only for short periods. Many jails are used for the sole purpose of detaining defendants awaiting trial.

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  • 1 decade ago

    You can catch a felony and stay in county jail. It depend on the length of the sentence. I have seen people be sentenced to 3 yrs in county.

    Source(s): Been there
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  • 1 decade ago

    If you're sentenced to under 1 year - jail

    If you're sentenced to over 1 year - prison

    Prison is for felonies

    Jail is for misdemeanors

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