A Comparison between Jails and Prisons Essay

A Comparison between Jails and Prisons Essay.


This paper will demonstrate the comparison between jails and prisons. A description of jail’s and how corrections played a role will be explained, in addition to the history of jails and prison. Also a summary of the state and federal prison history will explained, as well as the comparisons of the similarities between security level jails, state prisons, and federal prisons. Finally, an explanation of factors influencing growth in jails, state prisons, and federal prisons will be discussed.

“Jails are locally operated correctional facilities that confine people before or after adjudication” (Seiter, 2011).

From a correctional stand point, jails serve a range of functions and possess a variety of categories which includes: individuals pending arraignment, awaiting trial, conviction, or sentencing: mentally ill people who are pending their movement to a suitable mental health facility: inmates pending transfer to federal, state, or criminal justice authorities: inmates who are sentenced no longer than one year: probation, parole, and bail bond violators, and juveniles who are pending transfer to juvenile authorities.

These categories make the operation of current jails very complicated and require systems, staff, and facilities that are amenable to accommodate those innumerable demands. They have several diverse terms that are used to label facilities that handle these specific functions such as: correctional centers, house of corrections, and detention facilities.

During historic times there has been a substantial difference between federal and state prison systems. State crimes consisted of murder, assault, robbery, theft, and burglary. Federal crimes consisted of white collar crimes, fraud, or treason. Over the past decades Congress federalized crimes such as bank robbery, kidnapping the distribution of drugs, and murder of public officials. As a result of this, there is less discrepancy between the types of inmates in state and federal prisons than in the past.

In the late 1800’s, offenders were housed in state prisons if their sentence was for more than one year. After the U.S. Department of Justice was established in 1870, a select official was responsible for the “care and custody” of all federal prisoners. Although, state prisons became overcrowded, the states became indisposed to house federal offenders and insisted the Department of Justice to establish facilities to maintain federal inmates. This led to Congress passing the Three Penitentiary Act.

This act authorized the production of three penitentiaries to house federal offenders. “These three prisons served the needs of the federal government and housed almost all federal inmates for several decades (Seiter, 2011). The three penitentiaries became crowded therefore; in 1925 Congress authorized the creation of a reformatory for males between the ages of seventeen and thirty. Two years later a federal prison for women was established in 1927.

Today the federal prison system is a nationwide system of prisons and detention facilities for incarceration of inmates who are sentenced for federal crimes and for the detention of the offenders awaiting trial or sentencing in federal court. Federal prison camps are established to be minimum-security institutions. These institutions have dormitory housing, low number in staff, and limited or no perimeter fencing. Federal correctional institutions are considered low security prisons. These institutions are double fenced, mostly dormitory housing, and a higher staff ratio than minimum security facilities.

Most adult prisoners who are serving more than one year are housed in facilities that are run by the state. “As of June 30, 2008, the states operated almost one thousand two hundred fifty prisons are holding approximately 1.41 million inmates (Seiter, 2011). Each state adopts its own penal code that specifies what acts are considered felonies, what extent of sentences is available for each category of crime, and what type if sentencing configuration it will have.

The state prison system security level classifications are similar to the federal prison system. One key difference is that many states have central reception centers, which all inmates are placed until classified. When the inmates arrive at the reception center they receive a security classification to clarify which prison they will be assigned. The ideal purpose of security classification is to counterpart offenders to institutions that have the physical security and staff resources to avoid escape and control their behavior.

Over the past years, the prison population has grown due to an increase in violence and other major crimes. For instance, Louisiana has had over fifty killings this year compared the forty killings that took place for the entire last year. Louisiana’s prison population is crowded and overcrowded at some institutions. “At mid-year 2002, the population of the nation’s prisons and jails for the first time reached two million” (Seiter, 2011). The growth of prison incarceration continues to grow every twenty years. Over the years, jurisdiction has tried to come up with a solution to solve its jail crowding problem. They thought building new facilities would be the answer to their problems but they were wrong. Many factors influenced that decision including politics and budget challenges.

In conclusion, jails and prisons are similar. Prisons are more populated than jails. The reader should understand the difference between federal and state prisons and local jails. Also the history of how federal and state prisons were explained to let the reader know how and where the prisons derived from and how they evolved into what they are today.

Works Cited
Seiter, R. P. (2011). Corrections: An Introduction (3rd ed.). : Prentice Hall.

A Comparison between Jails and Prisons Essay