Jail & Prison FAQs

Alcatraz Prison

Alcatraz Prison

So, what’s the difference between a jail and a prison?
In the United States of America, the terms “jail” and “prison” refer to separate levels of incarceration.

What is a prison?
A prison is a place in which humans are physically confined with a loss of at least some personal freedoms. Prisons are state or federal facilities that house people that are awaiting trial on the state or federal level, as well as convicted felons that are serving a term of more than one year.

What is a prison system?
A prison system is the organizational arrangement of the provision and operation of prisons that potentially invokes a corrections system.

What is a jail?
Jails are county and/or city administrated institutions which contain both inmates awaiting trial locally, and convicted misdemeanants serving a term of one year or less.

What’s the difference between federal, state, and local inmates?
Individuals who are convicted of violating Federal (US) laws are sent to Federal prisons. A federal prison may also house people who are awaiting trial for possible violations of Federal laws. Most inmates convicted of violating state or local laws are sent to state prisons, city jails, or county jails.

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