Jails and Prisons

Essay by mysneakersCollege, UndergraduateA, May 2010

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When you sit down at night and turn on the news it is almost a guarantee that you will hear a story about crime. Crime seems to be at the forefront of every newspaper, news hour or radio show. Crime is around us everywhere and crime has not limits on who it affects or what neighborhood you live in. Criminals will eventually get caught for their crimes and they are housed in one of two places either a jail or a prison. Although most people think they are the same and use the terms interchangeably, there are significant differences in the two systems.

Jails are locally operated and funded by state and local government. They are short-term confinement facilities that were originally built to hold suspects after their arrest and while they were awaiting trial. Today jails serve other purposes such as to temporarily detain juveniles, mentally ill persons and others pending transfer to appropriate facilities.

They are also used to hold individuals for the military, for protective custody, contempt and to hold witnesses for the courts. One of the main purposes of jails is to hold inmates that are sentenced to short terms, generally less than one year, with an average stay of fifteen to twenty days (Seiter, 2008).

Prisons are operated and funded by state or federal agencies and are in operation across the nation. People that are sent to prison are convicts that have been sentenced to long terms with the average time served being thirty-six months. Most people in state prisons are those convicted of violent crimes (Schmalleger, 2007). Property crimes and drug crimes are the second most common offense in state prisons. The inmates that populate the federal system are those sentenced to drug-law violations (Schmalleger, 2007).

One of...