Law and order is a prime responsibility of the Government of the land. They Government are empowered to do anything to uphold the law in all respects. They have the power and capacity to arrest persons who commit crimes. The job of the police ends with the arrest and investigation. The courts have the powers to sentence any person for the crimes he or she might have committed.
After an arrest, the police will have to hold the arrested person in their custody until punished by a court of law. The police may ask for custody of the arrested person for investigation purposes. Such temporary detention places are jails.
You must have come across the word prison as well. What is the difference between a prison and a jail?
Both are detention centers. They are similar in many ways. However, there are differences. Otherwise, what is the need for two separate words in the language?
Basic differences between jails and prisons:
The main difference is in the duration of custody. Temporary detention centers are jails whereas permanent detention centers are prisons.
A person awaiting trial is usually sent to jail. A person convicted of a crime is sent to prison.
A person accused and convicted of a low intensity crime is also sent to jail. Prison usually houses hard core criminals.
Jails are places where incarceration of criminals takes place. They are usually run by the county and are managed by the sheriff. Prisons require greater management control and hence come under the purview of the state government.
Jails are usually located within the county whereas prisons could be far away from the place of residence of the convicted criminal.
There is a major difference as far as amenities are concerned.
Jails are temporary detention centers and hence the amenities in jails will be less than that of prisons. Prisons are places where the detention period is very long. There are even life convicts who have to server their entire remaining life in prisons.
The facilities in a jail are also quite less as compared to that of prisons. The security aspect is also quite less in jails in comparison with prisons. Jails do not house hardened criminals. Hence the powers vested with a jail head are quite low. Prisons house hardcore criminals who may have been convicted for heinous crimes. Thus the powers vested with the person in charge of prisons are very high. Usually a lower ranked inspector of police can be a jail head whereas the prisons are usually headed by top ranking police officials.
The area that a jail encompasses is much less than that of prisons. The numbers of jails are also much higher than that of prisons. Usually a state may have about one prison to cater to about 10 counties. A state may not have more than three to four high security prisons. The jails are usually greater in number. In fact the US alone has about 3600 jails. The prisons are usually spread over a vast location.
Both the places are seen as places of reform for criminals. Jails offer vocational courses and boot camps. Prisons have work release centers to allow the criminals a chance to redeem themselves.
A person lodged in a jail may not have been convicted yet. He is eligible for bail. A person in prison has been convicted by the court of law. He is not eligible for any bail.
As you have seen above, a jail and a prison though very similar in nature are actually very different in their functions.