The terms jail and prison are often used in place of one another. However, they are not the same thing. Depending of the type of crime, a criminal may be put either in jail or in prison. Hence, following are several points that will help you get the difference between jail and prison.
The length of the sentence
The main difference between jail and prison is the length of the sentence. A jail is a temporary place to hold those people who have been arrested recently and who cannot pay a bond to get free. Usually, these are short sentences that last no more than a year. Besides, a jail holds those people who are waiting for a plea agreement, trial, or sentencing. And lastly, people who have been arrested to prison and should be transferred to another prison are usually held in a jail.
A prison, on the other hand, is a long-term facility. People who have committed a felony are held in a prison. The length of a sentence in a prison is 1 year or more.
Authorities running the facility
Different authorities run the two types of facilities. Jails are run by a county or city government. Prisons are run by either state or federal governments. It should also be noted that people who break state laws go to state prisons and those who break federal laws go to federal prisons.
Programs and opportunities
Because prisons are meant to hold people for a longer period of time, they have developed more programs and opportunities for their detainees. Most prisons have got infirmaries, cafeterias, services for substance abuse and more. Jails generally lack such services.
The number of people delivered to jail every day is less than the number of people delivered to prison. The main reason is that people are more prone to speeding, using drugs or alcohol and committing misdemeanors rather than committing felonies.
Of course, in some states there are certain exceptions from the general rules, for example, in some places, the cut-off for serving time in jail is 2 years instead of 1 year. However, knowing the difference between jail and prison will help you evaluate the situation and understand the seriousness of a crime committed by someone you know.