The terms jail and prison have often been used interchangeably, but they do not often mean the same thing despite being similar. The major difference between the two is pegged on where you are being held. These two methods of incarceration are different. The location and duration of detention determine whether one is in jail or prison, as these are often determined by the nature and severity of the crime committed. Many people who are waiting to be sentenced are out on bail that was posted by a bail bonds company. To gain an in-depth understanding of the two, it is better to explore each one of them separately and determine whether there are distinctive differences between them.

Jail is ideally a temporary holding facility operated by local governments and often supervised by country sheriff departments, designed to hold or detain recently arrested individuals accused of committing misdemeanors and other minor offenses. An individual can also be held in jail for longer if their offense is a year or less.

Jails are simply confinement facilities for individuals awaiting sentencing or trial. Jails are often left to local law enforcement agencies to run them and maintain order. They often have only one level of security.

Prison, on the other hand, is a large federal- or state-run facility designed to hold and house individuals convicted of felonies and other serious crimes, and with sentences that run for more than a year. Prison is also commonly referred to as a penitentiary. A state prison is meant for people who have broken one or more state laws whereas a federal prison is for individuals found guilty of breaking federal law. Prison is often equipped with more complex facilities/amenities than jail because an inmate is expected to spend at least one year in there. The U.S. has the highest number of prisons in the world, followed by Russia.

Prisons are complex confinement facilities for convicted criminals or individuals who have already gone through the court process and found to be guilty of committing a criminal offense. The operation and management of prisons are often left to state and federal governments. Sometimes, the government contracts a third-party such as a private company to run the prison facilities, which are often segregated by the level of security (minimum, medium, or maximum). The level of security is also reflected in their physical design and prisoners are often assigned to a given securing level depending on their crimes and other factors.

The living conditions in prisons tend to be better than those in jails. In jails, inmates are confined in cage-like enclosures while prisons tend to allow inmates to roam in barrack-like enclosures. In jail, inmates are not enrolled in regular programs of exercise and are not allowed the freedom to roam around for some fresh air, unlike in prison where inmates are occasionally allowed to get outside their cells for some fresh air and to socialize with fellow inmates or participate in other social activities. Jail conditions tend to reflect the local jurisdiction’s budgetary constraints.

Therefore, while many people think that jail and prison are the same, they have their differences. However, they both deprive inmates of some of their constitutional rights such as freedom. Jails are designed to hold inmates temporarily as their case is heard and determined whereas prisons are more equipped and house inmates convicted of serious crimes.

Author's Bio: 

Umar Bajwa is a blogger and professional content writer loves to write about lifestyle, fitness and health-related topics.