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What is the Difference Between Prison and Jail?

You might have heard the terms “prison” and “jail” used interchangeably. Although this happens often, the two are actually not the same.

When you are arrested for an alleged criminal offense and held before your trial, you are typically held in jail. Depending on the type of charge you face, you could be transferred to a prison if you are convicted. In the most basic sense, the difference between prison and jail is the length of time an individual spends in the facility. However, there are a substantial number of differences between the two types of facility that go beyond the length of time they house individuals who have been charged and convicted of crimes.

Jails are Locally-Run

Generally, jails operate at the local or county level. They are used to hold inmates who are awaiting trial as well as individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanors and are serving short sentences. For example, an individual who is convicted of drunk driving or marijuana possession may spend time in jail. In Florida, individuals sentenced to 364 days or fewer spend their sentences in jail, not in prison.

Jails are often different from prisons in what they offer to inmates. In many jails, rehabilitation and work release programs are available to help inmates build the skills they will need after they are released. Some offer boot camps as well as educational and vocational programs. Because jail sentences tend to be shorter, most jail facilities are less developed than prison facilities.

Prisons are State and Federally-Run

Prisons, on the other hand, are meant to house individuals who are serving long-term sentences. Prisons are run by state governments or by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Because they house less transient populations, many prisons have more developed facilities and programs in place than jails. For example, it is sometimes possible for an individual to complete a college education while in prison. Prisons operate at various levels of security, such as minimum, low, medium, and high security depending on the populations they house.

Inmates’ Rights in Jail and Prison

Regardless of whether an individual is serving time in jail or prison, he or she has civil rights. These rights include freedom from discrimination based on their race, sex, religion, ethnicity, and other such characteristics, the right to due process, and the right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Individuals in all correctional facilities in the United States also have the right to visitation from friends and loved ones.

Work with an Experienced Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you could be facing time in jail or in prison. To reduce your chance of having to spend time in any type of correctional facility, work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend your claim. Our team of Miami defense attorneys at Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC can help you develop an effective legal strategy for your case. Contact our firm today to schedule your free legal consultation with us.

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