What is the difference between jail inmates and prison inmates? What would happen if jail inmates were assimilated into prison systems effective immediately?
Although the terms “jail” and “prison” are sometimes used interchangeably, most members of law enforcement distinguish between the two. [ Primarily, the difference is that a jail is used by local jurisdictions such as counties and cities to confine people for short periods of time. A prison, or penitentiary, is administered by the state, and is used to house convicted criminals for periods of
much longer duration. Both are part of a larger penal system which includes other aspects of criminal justice such as courts, law enforcement, and crime labs.
Because a jail is designed for short time periods only, it tends to have less amenities than a prison. Individuals who are being housed in a jail have access to bathrooms and are provided with food and water, and in a low security jail, they may be able to socialize in common areas during certain periods of the day. Most jails are designed to hold a very small number of criminals, and have relatively lax security when compared to prisons, although in areas prone to violence, a jail may be run along very strict lines. A jail houses people who have been convicted to serve a short sentence, individuals awaiting trial, people who have not yet paid bail, and detainees who have just been picked up on suspicion of committing a crime. The criminals are processed through a booking procedure, and the criminal justice system decides what to do with them after that. ]
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