Jail vs. Prison: Yes, There Is a Difference

bars across sky - jail vs. prison

Jail vs. Prison: Yes, There Is a Difference

Jail or Prison? While chatting with your friends you might use these terms interchangeably, but they are actually two very different types of incarceration. If you are facing criminal charges, understanding the differences between jail and prison can help you better understand what a conviction might mean for your future. 

The Differences Between Jail and Prison

Jails and prisons are two separate types of institutions, for different types of crimes and with different levels of security. You could interchange the two terms in general conversation and be understood, but if you did so within the Arizona justice system you are essentially confusing a felony with a misdemeanor.

People are sent to prison for felonies. For example, “If we rob this bank at gunpoint and shoot a guard we could go to prison.”

Jail terms are sentenced for misdemeanors. For example, “Knocking over our nasty neighbor’s mailbox could land us in jail.”

Prison vs. Jail

People who are tried and convicted of a felony are confined in either minimum or maximum security prisons. These institutions are operated on both state and federal levels. Because they are for felony crimes, the terms served are generally longer. There are only nine prisons in the state of Arizona, so if you go to prison, you could wind up being incarcerated far away from family, friends, and loved ones.

Jails are run at the county level. They are places for holding people who are under lawful custody. People who are serving misdemeanor sentences, being held for petty crimes, being held for trial, or being detained for questioning could find themselves in jail. Each county decides how many jails it needs, based on crime rates, funding, and population.

Why Terminology Matters

Mixing up a misdemeanor with a felony is a big mistake. If you are convicted of a felony, you’ll wind up in prison, not in jail. You will also lose certain civil rights, including the right to carry weapons, the right to vote, and eligibility for social benefits like SNAP.

But whether you are facing criminal charges or being lawfully detained, you need a lawyer on your side. They could be able to prove your innocence, or get felony charges reduced to a misdemeanor. They can also advise you if you are ever detained. Being detained does not always mean that you are under arrest, or being charged with a crime. But if you are ever being detained, you should still contact a lawyer to protect your rights. 

Facing Incarceration? You Need a Good Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime in Arizona, the team at Van Norman Law can help you defend your case. Prison or jail, felony or misdemeanor, facing the Arizona justice system is not for the ill-prepared. With over 25 years of experience, our legal team understands the importance of clear communication in building a strong defense. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today.




Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/29/23). Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.