Jail vs. prison

Hello all,

Can anyone tell me the difference between the words “jail” and “prison” in the United States? Why were they categorized two seperate statistics in a textbook I have read?



Generally, jails are smaller and for shorter terms than prisons. Also, jails are usually used for the local county and city institutions, whereas prisons are state or federal institutions.

Prisons are typically used for longer term sentences, have tighter security, and hold more prisoners. Also, a jail might be used as a temporary holding facility for somebody awaiting trial or sentencing, before being sent off to prison.

In a way, you can think of it as being in trouble if you’re in jail, but in really big trouble if you’re in prison.