Although most people use “jail” and “prison” interchangeably, did you know that they aren’t the same? Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to tell them apart, leading to a lot of confusion.

Below are some simple ways to know the difference between jail and prison. No matter which institution you or a loved one remain held, you can still count on Blackman Bail Bonds for bail bond services.


Cell Stay DurationBlackman Bail Bonds What’s the Difference Between Jail and Prison

When someone gets arrested, they get taken to jail. It is here that their stay remains temporary.

Prison, on the other hand, is where convicted felons spend their sentence. If jail is a hotel, then prison is an apartment building.


Center Functions

Going to jail means getting processed into the law enforcement database. That is why they take your mug shot and ask for personal details before sending you to your cell.

Prison is where inmates go when they are found guilty of a crime. Inmates get housed, fed, and kept in holding for the duration of their sentence.


On-Site Security

The typical jail is relatively light on security, as it acts as a detention center for the general population. Although there are cells and holding rooms, you likely won’t find much security devices beyond cameras and electronic cell doors.

Prisons, on the other hand, run the gamut of advanced cell capabilities, to getting considered a “maximum security” institution. Typically, the level of security depends on how dangerous the inmates are, often determined from the crimes that they committed.


The Role of Officers

Many officers working in a community jail center find themselves handling mostly administrative duties. When an arrested party gets brought in, they must first determine if there is an existing record, or if they are getting entered into the system for the first time.

In prison, officers work tirelessly to keep inmates in line, a tricky job considering how outnumbered these law enforcement members remain. They often have access to protective gear and an armory should things get out of hand.



Getting held in a jail grants the opportunity to secure bail for your release. Once you enter prison, however, it isn’t an option.

Jail is to hold arrested individuals until their sentencing hearing. If convicted, you get transferred to prison for the duration of your assigned punishment.