Mar 15, 2019 in Law
Jails and Prisons


There is always the confusion that exists with most people that jails and prisons are synonymous. In the USA there is a difference between the two. A jail is usually run through the local authorities through the local government. Prisons are operated by the state or federal government through the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). A jail is a short term residence for the convicts and also for those who have been suspected of crime and are awaiting either the bail payment or the trial.

It is only for minor crimes whose sentence does not exceed tow years. On the other hand, those who are convicted of serious crimes will be taken to the prison. A convict will in most cases be held in a jail within the locality of his/her home. A prisoner can be taken to a prison that is very far from home. A state crime will result to the convict being taken to a state prison while a federal crime will mean a federal prison. A jail term will usually be for a short time, and as such, most jails have minimal amenities and recreational facilities as the convicts only stay there for a short time. Prisons will have more amenities as convicts held in prisons will in most cases serve a sentence of more than one year. They may have educational and vocational facilities, libraries, and recreational facilities.

Types of prisons

There are four types of prisons which are categorized according to the security levels required for the particular group of prisoners. The differences are based on the security equipments used and the intensity of surveillance and patrols within the centers. The four types are minimum security, low security, medium security and high security. Minimum security prisons have limited security, no perimeter fence, and fewer staff. In most cases they have work-release programs and are program oriented. Low security prisons have a higher number of staff; they have a double perimeter wall. The work programs are highly regarded. The prisoners are housed in groups within cubicles or dormitories.

The perimeter walls surrounding the medium security prisons will be stronger and usually have electronic detectors. The internal controls are stronger internal controls and the numbers of staff to prisoner is higher than both the low and minimum security prisons. There are a variety of work programs as well as various treatment programs. The inmates are housed in cell-like cubes. High security prisons or penitentiaries have their walls reinforced. The housing for the prisoners will have a small number of prisoners. The number of staff is higher and the prisoners are very closely monitored. There are other special types of prisons such as administrative facilities that are meant for prisoners with special needs like medical problems, or those prisoners who maybe very violent.

The concept of prison as a total institution

The concept of total institution was defined by Erving Goffman as an institution where individuals are separated from the rest of the society and all their lives are under total control of the relevant authority for the duration that they are in the institution. This concept is more realized in the prison system than in the jail system. Though the jailed convicts and suspects are isolated from the society, they have basic freedoms as their freedom to achieve basic needs is not as restricted as it is for those in prisons.

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The role jails play in the criminal justice system

A minor offender will be taken to jail. The jail is a place where the petty criminals are given an opportunity to get help in techniques of coping with life, but not punishment. It is an opportunity for early intervention in attaining criminal minds as well as a way to prevent creation of criminals. Most of the jail convicts have had a drugs and alcohol problem and the jail gives them a chance to be rehabilitated. The jail is where they are taken as an attempt to prevent these petty offenders from turning into hardcore criminals. Most of the prisoners will have been to jail on several occasions.

The role of community based corrections programs associated with jails and prisons

Community based correction program is the plan to have offenders to spend part of their sentence time with the community while under supervision. This method has gained popularity based on the belief that prisons may have a negative influence on the prisoners turning them into more serious criminals. The program is also preferred in most states as it reduces the budget that is involved the prisoner in jail or prison. The community based programs are mainly meant to prevent the offender from going to jail. The offender is punished for the wrong doing by having his/her freedom restricted.  It mainly applies to nonviolent offenders.

The program is also applied with those who are nearing release. This is meant to assist them to prepare for when they get back to the society and to assist them in fitting back in the community. They are provided with employment counseling, how to manage their finances, and transitional drug abuse treatment but only to those who have been through with the drug abuse program. The community based program can also be through home detention where the individual is not allowed to leave the home unless its go to work.

Violent behavior

There is more violence in prisons than in jails. This is because most of those in prisons are more hardened criminals whereby they bring their violent nature to the prisons. Crowding is one of the factors that can trigger violence and most of the prisons are crowded. There is less violence towards the staff in jails. There is less supervision in jails and as such the offenders are less likely to be violent. The prisoners are highly monitored and punishment is more brutal. This makes them feel pressured and they may react by being violent to the staff.

Parole as a concept for jails and prisons, and accompanying conditions

Parole is provided for prisoners at a time before their sentence is complete. The parole program is granted to offenders both in jails and prisons, as long as they meet the requirements set by the parole board.  The parole is only provided when the prisoner assures the parole board that the parolee will not cause any harm to the community. If the parolee breaks the rules, the parole can be revoked. During the parole period the parolee is under supervision. The program was intended to reduce the congestion in the prisons. For one to be considered for parole, there are certain considerations, which include the crime, past violence, ones behavior while in jail or prison and information from the victims.

Role of truth-in-sentencing

Truth-in-sentencing refers to the law that requires if one is convicted s/he should serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence. The law was created to ensure that criminals paid for their crimes. Before the law, a criminal would escape prison sentence after the parole and probation boards decided to release some criminals after the convicts had shown positive behavior. The law was to emphasize on punishing crime. The law exists for both the jail and the prison systems.


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