Jail or Prison? Unless you have an incarcerated loved one, this may seem like a silly question.
Most people lump jail and prison together, using the words interchangeably. But prison and jail are not the same thing. If a loved one is incarcerated, you need to understand the difference – because they are very different institutions.
It can be a little confusing to understand the difference between prison and jail. Prisons and jails can both house people convicted of a crime. No wonder there is confusion! Here is the primary difference: Prisons house people under the state’s authority, and jails detain people under the county’s control. Well, mostly.
What to know before your visit
The county uses jails to detain the following: those arrested for any crime and awaiting court hearings, those convicted of a crime that serve shorter sentences, and those who have been transferred back to the county for a hearing after being sentenced to serve prison time. Jails house people sentenced to a state prison, but only temporarily. This happens when a person goes back for a face to face hearing or is awaiting transfer to a state facility. Jails are under the local authority of the city, county, or counties that they serve. Typically, people convicted of misdemeanors do their time in jails.
On the other hand, prisons are under the authority of the state or Federal Bureau of Prisons. There is typically a state office, a Department of Corrections, that oversees the state prisons. People serving time in prison are generally serving longer than 30-day sentences; those convicted of at least one felony (but may also have misdemeanors). Often “remanded into” state or federal custody by the county court.
Both prisons and jails must provide visitation for family and/or friends.
With COVID, most family visits are delivered through video. No matter where a person is serving their time, there are often programs to help individuals overcome barriers and prepare for life after release. However, prisons provide more programs since they house inmates with a long-term confinement.
Although there are differences between prison and jail, both create hardships for the incarcerated and their family members. Each place has its own rules for visiting, sending money, or purchasing food and other items for those incarcerated. Be sure to contact the individual location to find out the rules. I am certain you want to avoid a prison visit only to discover you cannot enter the prison or money send back to you!
Wether it is a jail or a prison, incarceration at either place is brutal.
Never underestimate the effects of prison on you, your family, and your loved one. It is a painful, difficult journey, no matter the length of time or the location. Find support and take advantage of it to help you grow stronger despite the hardships.
I am rooting for you!