The Differences Between Jails And Prisons, Explained

Jail cell
Zain Murdock
July 9, 2021

They might both have aging cells, guards, and brutality – but there’s some key differences between jails and prisons you need to know that the media might not be telling you.

Jails are typically smaller than prisons and are where people go for the short term. That often means before trial, or if they’ve been given a sentence for usually less than a year post-trial. Unlike prison, 60% of people in jail actually haven’t been sentenced for a crime yet! Many even die in jail because they can’t afford bail. 

Another issue shows just how big the difference is.

600,000+ people go to prison every year. Which is a lot, but pales in comparison to the 10.6 MILLION people who go to jail yearly! And Black Americans go to jail 4x as much as whites. 

Those 10+ million people face harsh circumstances.

Often lacking proper healthcare, jails regularly incarcerate people dealing with mental illnesses, poverty, and substance abuse. So jails also re-incarcerate at least 25% of people within the same year!

Now more than ever, as politicians and the media continue to tell us that we need policing and incarceration, it's crucial for us to know how these systems work. If we can equip ourselves with the truth, we can challenge the system and create something that actually works.

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