1. Discuss the difference between a jail and a prison.
2. What types of criminals are held in each facility?
3. Is it local, state or federal government that funds and maintains a jail? What about a prison?
4. Can jails ever be used to hold defendants more appropriately incarcerated in a prison?
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1. Discuss the difference between a jail and a prison. What types of criminals are held in each facility?
A jail is a place for the confinement of persons in lawful detention, especially persons awaiting trial under local jurisdiction. Thus, a jail is a building designated or regularly used for the confinement of individuals who are sentenced for minor crimes or who are unable to gain release on bail and are in custody awaiting trial. Jail is usually the first place a person is taken after being arrested by police officers. Most cities have at least one jail, and persons are taken directly there after they are arrested; in less populated areas, arrestees may be taken first to a police station and later to the nearest jail. Many jails are also used for the short-term incarceration of persons convicted of minor crimes. Second, for homeless and destitute persons, temporary incarceration in jail may, at times, seem a relief from living on the streets. Once people are inside the criminal justice system, officers, prosecutors, and judges can sometimes identify those who need help from social services more than they deserve criminal prosecution. More often than not, persons confined in jail do not wish to be there and seek prompt release. A person in jail has little choice in being there. Those awaiting trial (pretrial detainees) have been forcibly confined by law enforcement officers, and those serving a sentence (convicts) have been ordered there by the court. A sentence of confinement to jail is backed by the power of law enforcement personnel. Flight from prosecution or confinement is a felony that usually results in a prison sentence.
How do jails compare to prisons?
Though they are similar, jails are not the same as prisons. Prisons are large facilities that hold large numbers of people for long terms; jails are usually smaller and hold smaller numbers of people for short terms. Prisons confine only convicted criminals; jails can hold convicted criminals, but usually only for short periods. Many jails are used for the sole purpose of detaining defendants awaiting trial. In jurisdictions with these jails, a subsequent sentence of short-term incarceration is served at a different facility, such as a work farm or workhouse. Persons sentenced to a workhouse may be forced to work, but pretrial detainees are not. In contrast, convicts in prison are usually required to work if they are able. Some convicts sentenced to jail are able to come and go, serving their term on weekends or other designated days. Pretrial detainees in jail may leave if they can make bail. In contrast, inmates in prison are rarely allowed to leave until their prison sentence has been completed or they are granted early release on parole.
Similarly, jails and prisons are both dangerous. Both house persons accused or convicted of crimes, making anger, humiliation, and violence regular features of life on the inside. Violent gangs are not as prevalent in jail as in prison, because the incarceration periods are shorter and inmates are less able to organize. However, jail inmates do not have the incentive from "good-time" credits that prison inmates have. A good-time credit reduces the sentence of a prison inmate for good behavior. Transgressions in prison can result in the loss of these credits. However, although jail terms are usually shorter than prison terms, they are not always. Many states limit jail terms to one year, but some allow jail sentences to reach more than two years. In Massachusetts, for example, a person can be sentenced to confinement in a jail or house of correction for as long as two-and-a-half years (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 279, § 23 [West]). In large, complex cases and in cases of retrial, pretrial detention can last months, sometimes years. (1)
Though they are presumed innocent in a court of law, pretrial detainees can claim few rights beyond those of convicted defendants. The U.S. Supreme Court does not find a reason for distinguishing between pretrial detainees and convicted defendants in jail. In fact, the High Court has stated that security measures in the federal system should be no different than those for convicted criminals because only the most dangerous defendants are held before trial (Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S. Ct. 1861, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447 ). Nevertheless, pretrial detainees do possess the same rights as convicted criminals. These include the rights to freedom of speech and religion, to freedom from discrimination based on race, and to due process of law before additional deprivation of life, liberty, or property. Detainees and inmates also have the rights to sanitary conditions; to freedom from constant, loud noise; to nutritious food; to reading materials; and to freedom from constant physical restraint. All these rights may, however, be infringed by jail and prison officials to the extent that they threaten security in the facility. (1)
Thus, the chief types of detention in the United States (with similar institutions in other countries) are the local jail, for pretrial detention and short sentences, and the state and federal penitentiaries, for convicts with long sentences. Special penal institutions are provided for juveniles, the sick, and the criminally insane. The rapid increase in prison population has led some U.S. jurisdictions to explore letting private contractors operate prisons. These private prisons increased from one or two in the mid-1980s to more than 150 by the end of the century. Some of these institutions proved problematic, often because they were not subject to government regulation or because they took in out-of-state prisoners. Juvenile delinquents are usually sent to reformatories or other correctional institutions. In the face of growing U.S. youth crime from the 1970s to the 90s, military-style "boot camps" for juvenile offenders were widely instituted. Many of these were subsequently criticized for brutality and high recidivist rates, and some were scaled back or closed. Among famous prisons in history are the Bastille in Paris and the Tower of London. In the United States, Sing Sing (see Ossining) and Alcatraz (now closed) are the two best known. (2)
Thus, a prison is a public building used for the confinement of people convicted of serious crimes and for longer periods of time. Prison is a place used for confinement of convicted criminals. Aside from the death penalty, a sentence to prison is the harshest punishment imposed on criminals in the United States. (3)
2. Is it local, state or federal government that funds and maintains a jail?
Jails exist on the federal, state, and local ...
The expert discusses responding to the questions, this solution discusses the difference between a jail and a prison on several dimensions.