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Differences Between Jails and Prisons

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When we imagine being incarcerated, we picture ourselves being placed behind bars and being granted only little communication with the outside world. A lot of us also regard ‘jail’ and ‘prison’ as being synonymous with simply being held in a place with a lot of criminals. The two, however, have differences in terms of the rights, policies, and daily life within its quarters. It begs to question, what are the major differences between being held in jail and prison?

As facilities, both are temporary locations to place convicted individuals for a certain period depending on the severity of the crimes they committed. Both are used to limit their interaction with the outside world until such time that their presiding judge finds them worthy of release depending on the sentence handed to them. All inmates held in prisons and jails have the right to visitation and to be treated humanely without suffering from any form of harassment.

What majorly sets the two apart is the duration that inmates are held within them. Jails are facilities run by government agencies or by law enforcement of the local state to keep individuals that are awaiting the conclusion of their trial. While their trial is still ongoing, they may be kept in custody due to their high risk of flight in terms of criminal history and past incidences of attempted escape from the trial. Regardless of their circumstances, these individuals are not kept for a long time inside jail. Aside from those waiting for trial, jails are also used to hold individuals that have less serious crimes to serve a short sentence. Examples of these minor offenses are misdemeanor conviction against a felony.

Jails also offer work release programs for inmates such as programs on substance abuse, education, and vocations. These programs are aimed to improve the demeanor of the inmates for them to be less likely to return to jail after their short sentences. Through the program, they can also become more productive members of society with functional jobs.

On the other hand, prisons are run by the state government to keep individuals that are sentenced to more serious crimes. Inmates kept within prison have longer sentences which typically last for many years depending on the severity of their crime. Prisons have more strict security since they are used to keep more inmates in one area. Since prisons are designed for long-term incarceration, this means that they have more facilities to keep larger populations for a longer time to cater to their needs such as a cafeteria and open fields for exercise.

Depending on their level of custody, inmates are also offered different programs such as work release programs and halfway houses for those with minimum to medium-security custody. Those nearing the end of their sentences are also given more release programs for self-improvement to better prepare them to be better people once they are introduced back to society.

While both jails and prisons are places used for holding individuals sentenced for a crime, the two have differences in terms of the length of stay of detainees placed in them, facilities available for use, and programs offered for detainees. Knowing the differences between the two can help convicts to be more familiar with them as he is serving his sentence .

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