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What is the Difference between Federal Prison vs State Prison?

Throughout time as democracies developed and spread out to the rest of the world, a rough assessment would state that they can be classified into two polities, the first one being unitary and the second one being federal. A country's democratic structure which is unitary in character usually has only one government at the center, single citizenship, and uniformity of laws across the land. A federal polity, on the other hand, has federal and various unitary or state governments, dual citizenship and different laws across states with varying jurisdictions.

Federal Prison vs State Prison
It is this aspect of varied laws across the land that we are going to have a close look at today, with the focus being entirely on the United States of America. The USA might be classified by some scholars as one of the prime examples of the federal government machinery. With each state having their own set of laws, the federal polity of the USA gives rise to a prison system that also bifurcates into federal and state prison systems, with a whole set of differences between the two, which is going to be the main focus of this article.

With a host of differences in their administration, number of inmates, and the kinds of crimes committed by the inmates, the following are the differences between the two;

Differences between Federal Prisons and State Prisons

  • The Federal Prisons are administered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the State Prisons are administered by the Department of Corrections (DOC).
  • Individuals who violate Federal Laws are imprisoned in Federal Prisons and those who violate State Laws are imprisoned in State Prisons.
  • The Federal Prisons, therefore, house inmates who have violated laws outlawed by Congress and State Prisons house inmates who have violated laws outlawed by the respective state legislature.
  • The State Prisons outnumber the Federal Prisons in the United States with the former being 1,719 in number and the latter pegged at 102.
  • The inmates that are housed in State Prisons are usually convicted of more violent crimes as compared to the Federal Prisons that house inmates which are convicted of less violent ones, such as fraud and other white-collar crimes.
Federal Prison vs State Prison
  • Both the Federal Prisons and State Prisons have different custody levels for inmates convicted of different crimes, for example, maximum security, medium, and minimum security. It is often argued that due to the more violent nature of crimes committed by the inmates in state prison, even at the same security level, the federal prisons are safer than the state prisons, although there is no hard and fast rule as such.
  • The level of security is high in Federal Prisons while the level of security in State Prisons is relatively low.
  • The system of Federal Prisons was introduced by President Hoover in the year 1930.
  • The process of finding an inmate in the Federal Prisons can be undertaken on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/. The inmate can be searched according to the first, middle and last name, race sex or according to the FBI, INS, DCDC or BOP Register Number. On the other hand, an inmate located in a state prison can be searched on https://www.usa.gov/corrections. This website gives a list of all the states in the United States and redirects you to the preferred state website where one can get all the information about the prison and also includes the feature which allows you to search for an inmate in the chosen state prison.

In conclusion, State and Federal Prisons differ in a lot of aspects. From the difference in its administering staff, management authorities, the nature and the severity of crimes committed by the inmates, they do perform one similar function, that is of incarcerating individuals who break laws.


Search for anyone in the United States! 100% Confidential! Updated on September 20, 2019
Sensitive Information!