Jail and prison are two separate entities that are often mixed up. The difference between jail and prison is mostly the length of stay for inmates. Jail is more for a short-term sentence, while prison is for those with a long-term sentence. When thinking about it, though, prison seems like the more intense of the two, does it not? This is because prison is thought to be much worse than jail. Though they both house people who have committed a crime, the difference between jail and prison is essentially how long they are used for, and the types of people they are used for. Let’s start by looking at jail.
While both jail and prison are used as a form of incarceration, jail is used more for people who are being held for a shorter amount of time. Often “short” refers to a misdemeanor conviction versus “long” which refers to a felony. Jails are usually run by local law enforcement and/or local government agencies and are designed to hold inmates awaiting trial. Since jails tend to have more populations who are temporary, the facilities tend to be less developed. Given its constant flow of people, some inmates complain that jail can interfere with their ability to be on a regular schedule, making things like sleeping, eating or participate in exercise difficult to do on a regular bases. On the brighter side, jails often offer inmates some kind of work release program or boot camp designed to help them change their lives for the better and to improve so that they stand a better chance of avoiding prison time in the future. Some jails even offer educational, substance abuse, and vocational programs which can keep the inmates occupied, making them less likely to cause problems. However, with that said, jails are normally not as comfortable as a prison, as prisons are meant to accommodate people for a longer period of time. This means sleeping quarters are likely to not be as comfortable in a jail cell, as opposed to a prison cell. Also, jails typically have lower budgets, meaning food and other necessities can be of either a lower quality or even inadequate. This does not happen much, but some jail inmates try to use this as a breach of their rights, saying it is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. However, this is rarely successful.
Prisons are typically operated by either a state government or the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). They are designed to hold individuals convicted of more serious crimes, such as a felony. Prisoners held in a place like this are often forced to spend years in there, which means that living could be a little more comfortable than that of a jail cell. Because prisons are designed for long-term incarceration, they are better developed for the living needs of their populations. There are also different levels to a prison, ranging from low-security to maximum-security. The comfort of living is normally better in a lower security prison, as the crimes that the inmates have committed are not nearly as bad as those in a maximum security prison.
In both system, the inmates have a right to visitation and the right to make outgoing calls home or to their attorneys, although they do not have the same right to privacy as a regular civilian. Visits and phone calls are often closely supervised and can be recorded, and anything said about an open case can and will be used against the inmate in a court of law. Inmates do, however, have the same basic rights of any prisoner, including the right to be treated humanely, the right to access the courts, a right to medical care, and a right to not suffer any kind of discrimination – based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.
If you or someone you know has been convicted of a crime, make sure to have an experienced attorney to represent you. The attorneys at John Tumelty are well-qualified and will do everything in their power to help you avoid jail or prison time altogether, and may be able to help minimize your sentence if a conviction is unavoidable. Contact our offices today for a free consultation.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.