Although you may think that these two words are interchangeable synonyms, they are actually two very different institutions. Because the majority are victim of this common mistake, it's not surprising that only those who are familiar with the U.S. criminal justice system are able to differentiate between the two.
Essentially the difference between the two comes down to the length of the stay. Jails are for shorter stays, and prisons accommodate those serving a lengthier sentence. This article will help you have a greater understanding of the differences between the two.
Jail inmates are more often than not accused of committing a crime and are awaiting results or have been convicted for a crime with just a short prison sentence. What's more, if someone has been accused of a crime and is unable to make bail, they will have to stay in jail until a judge is able to see them.
Since 2011, jail inmates have also typically been relocated from state prisons that are overcrowded and understaffed. This is unfortunate as the jail system is not designed to for those serving long sentences. This practice started in California but has also been mimicked by other states such as Indiana and is slowly becoming common practice throughout the U.S.
Individuals that are held in prison have usually broken the law and are after their day in court. Prison inmates can ether plead "no contest" or 'not guilty" which will lead to a trial. If the jury finds them guilty, they will serve time in a state or federal prison upon the judge's discretion.
What's the Difference Between State Prison and Federal Prison?
Prisons are operated either but the state or federal government. If a federal law has been broken, then they will need to be tried in a federal court. If they are found guilty then they will serve time in a maximum security federal prison maintained by the government as opposed to an individual state prison.
Another common mistake is that federal courts deal with the more serious crimes however this is not always the case. If a for example, a homicide is treated in a federal court, this would only be because a state line was crossed. If a state line is not crossed then the case would be prosecuted by the federal government.
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