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What is the difference between jail and prison?

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Drug crimes range from misdemeanors and felonies. The potential sentences you may face for a conviction are also various. If the judge decides to incarcerate you, he or she could put you in jail or prison.

These two institutions are not the same. They do both house persons convicted or suspected of a crime, but that other factors differ greatly.


According to Prison Fellowship, jail is mainly for holding individuals. You will probably be in the jail immediately after your arrest. It is likely going to be in your area or in the area in which your arrest took place. Jail is meant for short-term incarceration. If your sentence is for over a year, you probably will not spend that time in a jail.

State and local governments run jails and control their operations. Jails often do not offer programs or other special activities.


Prison is a long-term option for incarceration. The state or federal government has control over them. In this type of facility, you will usually have access to programs, such as GED classes, and other special activities, such as religious meetings.

Some private companies own and run prisons. In these situations, the government is usually hands-off when it comes to operations, leaving that to the owner, but the facilities do have to follow general rules and laws about housing prisoners.

Prisons are often in larger cities. You may not have one close to where you live. You also will not get to choose which facility you will go to.

Whether your drug charge could land you in jail or prison, depends largely on the actual charge and the sentence handed down in court.

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