One of the biggest misconceptions people have is the difference between prison and jail. The common thought process is that prison is where the really REALLY bad people go, and jail is just for low-level offenders. This is both true and false. In many instances this is true. If you have a big rap sheet, or commit a very serious violent crime, you are most likely to be sent to prison as opposed to jail. However, plenty of EXTREMELY violent individuals dodge prison sentences and wind up spending long stretches in jail. So why and how? There are thousands of reasons. The DA lacking certain evidence, a great criminal defense attorney, a witness not showing up to testify against the defendant, the list goes on and on. So the only difference much of the time between someone in prison or in jail is luck.
So, is there a difference between jail and prison? And if so, what differences are important to me? I will keep this short and sweet. Think of prison as the big city. At first glance it looks fast and scary. Jail is like a town out of an old western, on its face it appears calm and tranquil. The difference, the city though big and scary has tons of police and laws governing it and the old western town, generally the strongest man is sheriff, and if there’s a disagreement it ends in a shootout.