City Jail, County Jail, State Prison, Federal Prison… What’s the Difference?

If you or a loved one have been arrested, one question you may be wondering is, what exactly is the difference between “jail” and “prison”? According to the Crime MuseumJail is a locally-operated, short term facility where as prison is a state or federally operated, long term facility”. Let’s give a little more background and discuss the differences between each one.

City Jail

Commonly used as the holding center following an arrest, City jail is typically designated for the confinement of individuals who are sentenced for minor crimes or who are unable to gain release on bail and are in custody awaiting trial. This type of jail is usually the first place a person is taken after being arrested by police officers. Currently there are approximately 3,600 jails in the United States.

County Jail

Differing slightly from City jails, a County jail is the holding center for those arrests that were made on a highway or in an unincorporated area within a County. County jails are also used to house those individuals awaiting their anticipated bail or trial after their preliminary hearing. When convicted of an offense, the county jail houses those individual found guilty of misdemeanors who received a sentence of up to 1 year in length, to individuals found guilty of minor felonies who received sentences of up to 3 years.

State Prison

Also known as the “penitentiary”, the “pen”, or the “big house”, State prisons are for individuals that have been given a sentence that exceeds one year in length. State prisons are used to house those individuals that have been convicted of serious crimes, such as armed robbery or homicide. To be put in a State prison one has to be convicted of breaking a state law. And lastly, in state prison there is the possibility of parole.

Federal Prison

Run under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (a branch of the Department of Justice) Federal prisons are for those individuals that have been convicted of breaking Federal laws. Examples of Federal crimes include: drug trafficking, identity theft, and money laundering. One major difference between Federal and State prisons, is that in Federal prison the parole system has been abolished.

Hopefully this helps to give you a better understanding of the differences between the various types of jails and prisons that exist in the U.S. However we of course hope that neither you nor any of your loved ones ever has to go to jail or prison. But if you are ever arrested for any reason and need help with bail, please give us a call right away at 866-574-7760.



If you have any questions regarding the bail and/or payment process, we here at Bulldog Bail Bonds are available 24/7 online or on the phone at 866-574-7760.