Jail vs. Prison: What is the difference between Jail and Prison?

Jail vs. Prison: In This Article We Will Discover The Key Differences Between Jail and Prison, Their Similarities, Pros and Cons, And Answer Some Of The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Jail vs. Prison: Key Differences, Pros & Cons, FAQ

Jail vs. Prison: though it is easy to confuse between the terms jail and prison, they are different in many aspects. The biggest difference between jail and prison lies in the people sentenced for a term in either one of them. While a jail confines people awaiting a trial, a prison confines only the ones convicted of some crime.

Looking at the definitions of jail and prison

What is jail?

A jail is a place of confinement for people awaiting a trial for holding them in lawful custody until they are either convicted or declared innocent.

What is prison?

A prison is a place of confinement for people who have faced trial and convicted for one or more crimes.

Considering jail vs prison similarities for understanding

  • Both jail and prison have work release programs that teach inmates to become better in life and help avoid a return visit ever.
  • Both jail and prison usually deny inmates certain constitutional rights.
  • Both jail and prison are bound by law not to be cruel to the inmates by causing unusual and unnatural sufferings upon them.

Listing the pros and cons of jail and prison

Pros of jail

  • You won’t be here for a life sentence.
  • The inmates here are not proven guilty which makes it less dangerous.

Cons of jail

  • It has less discipline.
  • It has limited basic facilities.

Pros of prison

  • It has more discipline and strictness.
  • It has more basic facilities.

Cons of prison

  • You can be here for the rest of your life after life imprisonment.
  • You will be surrounded by dangerous criminals.

Is prison worse than jail?

No, in the county jail vs prison comparison, a prison has more facilities since the inmates stay there for longer durations.

What do prisoners do in jail all day?

The days of prisoners in jail are jam-packed and starts with a wake-up call in the wee hours. With a routine roll-call, the day is packed with bathing time, meal times, exercise schedules, work programs, study time, and a prayer/meditation time allowed to one and all before calling it a day late in the night. 

What is Rikers Island?

Rikers Island is located in New York City and among the largest correctional facilities in the world. For those who don’t know, “Is Rikers Island a jail or prison?”, it is a jail and not a prison.

What's the difference between jail and prison in the UK? 

The UK uses the terms ‘jail’ and ‘prison’ interchangeably to address a place where a criminal suspect is confined for trial. But whenever a ‘criminal’ or ‘convict’ is discussed, it means an inmate of a ‘prison’ and not ‘jail’.

Can you sleep all day in prison?

No, inmates are not allowed to sleep all their days off in prisons. All the inmates have many assigned duties and work programs with a strict routine attendance record. That said, extremely debilitated (mentally or physically) inmates can be allowed to stay in their cells all day where they might sleep their day off. 

What should you not do in jail?

There are many ground rules to be followed in jail to make the stay less troublesome. And the most important one is to stay sober and mind your own business. Some other rules include:

  • Not picking up any fight and deliberately avoiding situations that might put you into one.
  • Follow all the basic rules of discipline and manners.
  • Being respectful and nice to all other inmates in all kinds of situations.
  • Refrain from passing personal judgments based on other inmates’ crimes, personalities, sexuality, et al.

Can prisoners use Facebook in jail?

Internet access is rare in jails. Hence, prisoners are strictly banned from using/updating their Facebook accounts from jail. 

How long does a person stay in jail before going to prison?

Legally, there is no definite time that states as to how long your stay would be in jail before going to prison. It will take as much time as would be required to resolve the case. Thereafter, when a sentence is passed, it is only a matter of a few days or weeks to be transferred to the prison from a jail.

Can you have a phone in jail?

No, a jail inmate is not allowed to have a phone in the jail.

What do you eat in prison? 

Cereals and milk are the breakfast staple in prison. And the regular meals include hotdogs, hamburgers, burritos, lasagne, patties, tacos, chicken, et al. Apart from the regular meals, the kitchen might have add-ons potato chips, ready-to-eat noodles, canned fruits, pickles, margarine, instant rice, hot sauce, chili, and pickles. 

What's the difference between jail and prison?

BasisJailPrison
ConfinesIt confines people awaiting trial.It holds people that have been convicted of their crimes.
Sentence termThe sentence term here is shorter, generally less than a year.People who have been put to sentence for many years are confined here.
JurisdictionJails fall under the jurisdiction of the concerned city or county.Prisons fall under the larger authority, generally the state or federal government. 
ControlJails are generally controlled by sheriffs.Prisons are controlled by special officers appointed by the state.
OffensesThose suspected of having attempted or having committed offenses of low-level are kept here.Criminals convicted of grave offenses like murder are imprisoned here.
FacilitiesSince jail inmates have to spend little time residing, there aren’t elaborate facilities in jails.To make the years-long stay of the inmates possible, prisons are well-equipped with all the basic living facilities.  
Security levelJails mostly have single-level security.Prisons mostly have 3 security levels; minimum, medium, and maximum, allotted to the inmates depending on the gravity of the crime they have been convicted for.

Comparison Chart

Jail vs. Prison: In This Article We Will Discover The Key Differences Between Jail and Prison, Their Similarities, Pros and Cons, And Answer Some Of The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Comparison Video

Jail vs Prison - What's ACTUALLY The Difference?

Why is prison better than jail?

The county jail vs state prison comparison reveals that prisons are always better than jails as they are designed keeping in mind that the inmates will stay there for a considerable portion of their lives. This necessitates the prisons, by the constitution, to offer all the basic living essentials to the prisoners.

Author & Researcher @ Difference 101 Master in Philosophy & Data Analysis, Sorbonne Université (Graduated 2011) Lived in New York City

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