6 Big Differences Between Jail and Prison


So, you’ve watched The Shawshank Redemption, every season of Oz and Orange is the New Black and think you know everything there is to know about life behind bars. Think again! Here are six big differences between jail and prison:

1: Jails are run by counties or cities, while prisons are managed by states or the federal government.

Jails are typically used to house people who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or sentencing, while prisons are used to hold people who have already been convicted of a crime. Because of this, jails tend to be smaller than prisons and have less security.

2: You can get out of jail by posting bail, but you can’t post bail to get out of prison.

If you’re in jail and can’t afford your bail, you might be stuck there until your court date—which could be weeks or even months away. But if you’re in prison, you serve your full sentence no matter what.

3: The food is better in prison.

We’re not kidding! Jails are notorious for serving terrible food—think glorified cafeteria food or even worse. And because prisoners are in for longer periods of time, they have more money to spend on food—so the quality is usually much better.

4: Inmates in prison have more leisure time—but that doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games.

Prisoners usually have more free time than inmates in jail because they’re not working on getting released. But that free time doesn’t necessarily mean they’re playing basketball and hanging out in the lounge all day long. A lot of prisoners use their free time to work on their cases or earn degrees so they can get a job after they’re released.

5: Prisons offer more programs and resources than jails.

Again, because prisoners are in for longer terms than inmates in jail, prisons offer more programs and resources to help them re-enter society successfully after they’re released. These programs can include job training, anger management classes, substance abuse counseling, and more.

6: Inmates in jail generally mix with other inmates from their county or city, while prisoners mix with inmates from all over the state or country.

This one really depends on the size of the jail or prison—but in general, inmates in jail tend to mix with people from their own community while prisoners mix with people from all over the place. This can make it harder for prisoners to stay connected with friends and family on the outside.

Jails and prisons may seem interchangeable, but there are actually some big differences between the two. Now that you know a little bit more about jails vs. prisons, maybe you’ll think twice next time you think of committing a felony.

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