Difference Between Jail and Prison


Primary Difference

A jail is a place where the people are confined for a short period of time when they have done a crime or have been accused of it. Criminals are there in a jail for a detention period. Prisons on the other hand Rae there to detain people who have committed a very serious crime and are there for a very long period. The time period of detention for a jail is from one day till a year whereas time period for a prison is more than one year. Jails are run by a country or local government bodies while prisons are run by the state government or the federal board of prisons. The criminals in jails may also be on trial and can also be on their waiting period till they r not proven guilty. The inmates are detained in jails for small crimes and are provided specialized services such as work release programs and boot camps. The jailers address educational needs, substance abuse needs, and also vocational needs while managing the criminal’s behavior which will help them to become wise and not cause any future trouble and get a chance to visit the jail again. Prisons on the other hand is very strict with massive punishment and torture given to the inmates and are denied a lot of rights. Prisons offer different programs to inmates depending on the inmate’s level of custody which can be minimum, medium, or maximum security and solitary confinement. Minimum and medium security programs include halfway houses, work release programs, and community restitution centers. Typically those who are eligible for such programs are nearing the end of their prison terms. Prisons are also used as rehabilitative centers for serious criminals who are involved in major crimes and make them better beings and are not released till the government is sure that they have improved. Jails are mostly small with not many facilities as the inmates are there for a short period of time whereas prisons are huge and offer more facilities due to the fact that the inmates are there for long term period. The population in a jail is a lot more as compared to prisons because smaller crimes are committed by prisoners on a daily basis whereas major felonies are committed not very often.

Comparison Chart

Short period of timeLonger period of time
Run by local government bodiesRun by federal government
Inmates in jail are for minor crimesInmates in prison are for major felonies

Definition of Jail

A jail is place where prisoner are detained for the commitment of minor crimes or offences. Prisoners are there for a trial or a probation period and are there till released or their time span of punishment is complete. They are there for a short period of time which can range from two days till a year or more depending on country to country. A jail is usually run by local government bodies. The inmates in jail are also provided educational and vocational services or given a load of major work so they remain busy and also not cause any problems for fellow inmates. These services help them become better people and their punishment period will cause them not to commit more crimes in the future.


Definition of Prison

A prison is a facility that holds convicts who have committed crimes the government or federal body considers very serious such as bank robbery. Kidnapping or murder which are very serious offenses. That is the reason that criminals in a prison are detained for a longer period of time which is more than a year till lifetime. Criminals are also on a trial in a prison but if proven guilty of a major crime can also be given death sentence. Serious punishment and torture is given to the inmates in a prison which varies with the extent of crime done. Inmates are provided with different custody levels in a prison which is minimum, medium, maximum and solitary confinement. Many programs and services are offered to the inmates to make them better beings and are usually offered to inmates of minimum and medium level and usually nearing the time of their release. Prisons are run by the federal board of prisons or the state government.

Differences in a Nutshell

  1. Jail is for a short period of time while prison is for longer period.
  2. Jail is run by local government bodies while prison is run by the state government.
  3. The inmates in jail are for minor crimes while the inmates in prison are for major felonies.
  4. A jail provided facilities to the inmates and lesser punishment whereas punishment and torture in severe in prison.
  5. A jail has a lot of population whereas there is lesser population in prison.


Two terms which basically mean the same when used in normal language terms but are very different from each other if you try to know the exact meaning. Jail and Prison are usually considered the same but are different in the context, and hopefully this article will help in knowing the differences between them for people who did not know that before.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson