Jail vs Prison vs Correctional Facility

Jails, prisons, and correctional facilities are places where accused and convicted criminals are kept for their crimes. 

Most people use jail and prison interchangeably. However, they are two different types of incarceration. 

Firstly, a jail is a correctional facility run by the local government. It is used for keeping accused for a short duration or criminals awaiting trials or transfer to another prison. They are for individuals with a short sentence (usually less than one year) for minor misdemeanor or low-level offenses. 

Meanwhile, a prison is a correction facility run by the state or federal government. It is for people who committed more severe crimes and are sentenced longer.

A correctional facility is an umbrella term that can be used for any time of institution, including jails, prisons, rehabilitation centers, juvenile detention centers, halfway houses, etc.

Now let’s understand the difference between Jails, prisons, and Correctional facilities in detail.

What is a Jail?

Jail vs Prison vs Correctional Facility

Jail is a place to detail an individual while awaiting trial or sentencing or for transfer to a prison house. 

A jail could be called to a sheriff’s office or a local corrections department. 

It is usually to hold an accused or a convicted for a short term (usually for a misdemeanor). However, in some cases, when a person is awaiting trial for a misdemeanor and felony consecutively, they may spend more than a year in jail. 

Jails often have work release programs and boot camps. Some even offer programs like education, substance abuse, and vocational training. These programs are designed to help inmates to change their lives and have a better chance to eliminate the chances of returning to being a criminal. These programs are also designed to keep the inmates occupied so they don’t cause trouble with other inmates and jailers.

What is a prison?

Jail vs Prison vs Correctional Facility

Prisons are controlled by state governments or the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). They are created to hold convicted criminals who have conducted serious crimes and felonies. 

Prisons offer different types of programs for inmates based on the custody level. This could be minimum, medium, maximum security, solitary confinement, etc. 

Minimum and medium security programs include halfway houses, work release programs, and community restitution centers. These are generally for inmates close to the end of their prison terms.

Prisons are developed for individuals with long-term prison terms, significantly longer than one year. That’s why they have better facilities, programs, and quality of life. However, jail for transient populations. That’s why they have fewer facilities and programs. That’s why prisoners often prefer to stay in prison instead of jail. 

What is a Correction Facility?

Jail vs Prison vs Correctional Facility

A correctional facility is a broad term used for both jail and prison. However, most people call prisons correctional facilities. It is a place where inmates are exposed to specific programs for reformation. 

Usually, offenders, serial killers, and criminals who have committed terrible crimes are housed in these facilities. A correctional facility attempts to re-educate them to correct their behavior, ensuring they don’t pose any harm when they are out. 

Inmates are asked to participate in various educational activities and vocational training. They are also encouraged to participate in cultural programs and assist in educating other inmates. 

Difference between Jail, Prison and Correctional Facility

Comparison FactorsJailPrisonCorrectional Facility
PurposeThe purpose is to keep the accused or convicted awaiting trials, or to be transferred to a prison.The purpose is to house convicts and limit their freedom as punishment.It is for housing criminals with an intention to correct their ways and ensure they don’t cause any threat to others when they are out.
ObjectiveThe objective is to hold up an accused or convicted criminal for a short time.The objective is to keep the criminals away from society so they don’t pose any danger when out in the open.The objective is to rehabilitate criminals and mend their ways of thinking. 
Type of crimesIt is basically for misdemeanors.It is for criminals convicted for serious crimes.It is criminals who have committed serial killings, and other heinous and dangerous acts.
FacilitiesLow in facilities, programs and infrastructure.It has better facilities, correctional programs, training, and infrastructure.It usually has a high level of programs, training, top quality medical facilities, psychological support and more.
Quality of lifePeople have complained about unavailability of proper sleeping space, lack of safety, and more disturbances.It is safer and has a better quality of life for prisoners. They are safer from sexual harassment, and have better facilities.It is the safest and has the best security.


  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrections
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