What’s the Difference Between Jail and Prison?

What’s the Difference Between Jail and Prison?

The terms “jail” and “prison” are often used interchangeably. However, what most people don’t know is that these terms actually mean very different things. Jail is a place where people are held while they await trial. It can also be where people serve short-term sentences. In most states, including Ohio, jail sentences will never be more than 1 year. Meanwhile, prison is a place for convicted felons who are serving long-term incarcerations for severe crimes or penalties.

It’s also important to note that jails are run by a local government, while prisons are controlled by either the state or federal government. Here’s a simple chart to help differentiate jail and prison:


  • Inmates awaiting trial
  • Sentences are less than 1 year
  • Local government


  • Convicted felons
  • Sentences are more than 1 year
  • Federal Government

There are a few other differences that help distinguish between jail and prison. Some of these distinctions include the turnover rate, recreational activities, and the ability to learn. Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these aspects:

Turnover Rate

The turnover rate of jail is much higher than prison. This is because in jail, inmates await their trial dates. After their trial, they’ll usually either be released or moved elsewhere to start serving a sentence. A high turnover rate can make jail a rather hostile environment. With the constant change in the different types of inmates, it can make for a rough dynamic. This can lead to an abundance of violent conflicts that jeopardize everyone’s safety.

Recreational Activities

With certain prisoners serving life sentences, the need for outdoor recreation is crucial for prisons. The health and well-being of prisoners is shaped by their ability to leave the confinement of their cells every day. A few of the types of outdoor activities in prison can include standard fitness equipment, outdoor basketball courts, and smaller spaces for organized running. This is very different from a jail. Though some facilities do allow time for the inmates to be outside, it usually isn’t as long and doesn’t include the same sort of organized activities. Being held in jail without the ability to properly exercise on a regular basis would make anyone start to think about their best option for leaving as quickly as possible.

Ability to Learn

Various types of classes have been established in the American prison system. This has been done in part as an initiative to help prisoners better acclimate to the world outside of prison. Some of these classes include languages, basic mathematics, and religious studies. This is not something that inmates can benefit from while in jail. The sole purpose of jail is to provide a holding facility for suspects while they await trial. Jails do not offer any classes, nor do they plan to in the future.

How Do I Shorten My Jail Time?

The best way to shorten the time you spend in jail is to make the bail that has been set for you. In most cases, the amount of bail is much higher than anyone can afford. That’s why your best bet is to use trusted bail bonds. A few of the advantages of using a bail bond include confidentiality, knowledge of any relevant court systems, and cost savings.

At Andy Callif Bail Bonds, our team of certified surety bond agents is ready to help you get back on the road to recovery. Our staff has been serving the Columbus region for over 60 years. We are devoted to our clients and assisting them in posting bail as quickly as possible. Reach us today at (614) 945-4334 to learn more!


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