Jail and prisons comparison paper essay sample

In our society most people are confused of the difference between jails and prisons in the criminal justice system. After being arrested by the law enforcement, jail is the first place that criminals are taken to by a police officer. This paper will describe the jail’s place in corrections and its role throughout history, a small summary of the history of state and federal prisons, a comparison of the similarities and differences between security levels in jails, state prisons, and federal prisons, and explanation of factors influencing growth in jails, state prisons, and federal prisons. First of all jails was created in England, it was ordered to be built by King Henry II in 1166. Back then jails was called “ gaol”. Jails was originally use to house those offenders waiting for a trial. Between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries jails was mainly used to detain offenders, mentally ill, and even the poor. These early jails had some awful conditions such as poor food, little medical care, violence, and even dirty.

In 1773 Mr. John Howard was the head sheriff of Bedfordshire, these awful condition came to his attention because he discovered several condition like lacking in sanitation, lacking of discipline and awful disease in the local jails. Mr. Howard visited some countries over Europe to find some models that he could built in England and also he worked with some individuals of the English House of Commons to draft the Penitentiary Act. According to Seiter (2011), this Penitentiary Act created four requirements for English prisons and jails: (1) secure and sanitary structures, (2) systematic inspections, (3) abolition of fees charged to inmates, and (4) a reformatory regime in which inmates were confined in solitary cells but worked in common rooms during the day. Also this act required diet, hygiene, and uniforms for those prisoners.

But in the early U. S. colonies jails followed the English model and jail was primarily used to house those awaiting trial. Also those individuals that was too poor to pay their fines they was housed until they worked out their debts. Today jails continued their role of housing primarily pretrial inmates in our criminal justice system. Also jails now are a full-service facilities that offer security, food service, programs, and also medical care. Jails are now located in police stations and hold those offenders for a short period of time no more than forty-eight hours. Almost all criminals in the U. S. are detained in the country’s state prison. The state prisons in the U. S. are smaller than the federal prisons and are mostly used to incarcerate drug users, sex offenders, murders, and other offenders that are in the same group. State prisons are always operated by the state government and involves with those prisoners that are considered blue collar convicts and in the federal prison systems they are mainly white collar convicts.

Both state and federal prison systems in the U. S. have security levels which are minimum, low, medium, and high levels of security. The history of federal prison goes back in time when President Hoover was in charge of the U. S., he signed a bill to establish a federal prison system. The federal system will always relied on the local government to house criminals in prison. By time passing by the law has changed to provide lodging on the growing prison population of prisoners as well as to rehabilitate and not just to imprison the prisoners. The federal prisons was the first large facilities in the U. S. to confined inmates with different levels of security. Also federal prisons are mainly used to incarcerate inmates for a long period of time. State prison was based on the legal reforms of the Age of Enlightenment. Most states actually began with one prison but now each state in the U. S. have multiple facilities all over the state.

In the beginning of these facilities was based on the Auburn model. These state facilities have programs for those offenders that are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and help those offenders through hard times. Today our state prisons have four security levels for all correctional purposes and this levels of security are: low security, medium security, high security, and maximum level security. In the state prisons low security are mainly use for first time low risk criminals who are about to get out of prison. Mostly low security prisons are Boot Camps and Work Farms and they are always fenced up. In the minimum security level are usually known as federal prison camps and it is use for those inmates who commit a less severe crime who are almost finishing their time in prison. This can a facilities have dorm as their housing and there is no fencing around the facilities and the inmates can be trusted.

In the medium security prisons they have secure walls that have electronic detection system. Mostly all the inmates that stay in a medium security prison live in a cell type cube. Inmates in this facilities have a large number of staff and a large variation of work treatment. Finally, in the maximum security level inmates are always locked up 24/7 but they are allowed to be out of their cell for at least one hour of the day. This happen is this level of security because all of those inmates are mostly violent criminals. In the high security level in the U. S. justice system is known as penitentiaries and also those criminal have no freedom in this level. In the penitentiaries always have a higher secured and monitored security all over the prison because of the high risk of criminal that are housed in the prison.

There are always several factors that will influenced the growth of jails, state and federal prison throughout the criminal justice system in the U. S. One of the first factor the influence is the release of non-rehabilitated or the poor rehabilitated criminals to our society because they will end up back in prison again. The next factor is our society interpretation of crime because when our society change, so does the crimes and the law governing that specific crime and how to deal with those criminals in our society. Finally the last factor is recidivism because most prisoners are always used to commit crime and how to break the law because that is what they know what to do.

Unless if the criminal justice system in the U. S. does a review of all court procedures and the correction system the number of jails and prisoners will always continue to provide somewhere to stay the those criminals. But to reduce the recidivism rate we need more rehabilitation programs for those individuals that have anger problems, psychotic behavior, and drug abuse problems. In conclusion, the difference of jails from prisons in the history is that jails was the foundation of how criminals in the society were punished and prisons grew out of the jails to help house those criminals. With the time passing by, prisons was used to rehabilitate the criminals and to try to correct their behaviors. Having jails and prison in the U. S. will keep our society safe because it will keep those criminals locked up. .


Seiter, R. P. (2011). Corrections An Introduction (3rd ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.

University of Phoenix. (2011). CJi Interactice Multi-media. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, CJA234 website.