Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Jail and Penitentiary

Jail vs Penitentiary

There are many crime and police terms that seem to have the same meaning. At first glance, most will immediately wonder what the differences are between the jail, prison, penitentiary and correction facilities; that is if there are any. Many people hear these words often and blindly accept all four as one and the same. Nevertheless, there are really differences between them and discerning a jail from a penitentiary comes first.

Jail is probably the mildest detaining room of them all. It is the place where the convict is placed while waiting for his trial. It is also the detention unit for serving sentences that are only for less than one year. Often, those who incur the simplest misdemeanor and violation cases get themselves arrested and eventually land in here.

The term penitentiary is where the tricky part comes in. In the old times and even up to this date, the federal prisons were widely accepted or recognized as penitentiaries. Everyone is probably just too concerned about using the most politically correct term that they ended up making the definition of penitentiary closer or the same as that of prison and correction facilities. That’s why nowadays; the term penitentiary is already likened to the said other two terms.

A penitentiary is where felons land when they finally serve their seemingly longer sentences or when they are already found guilty. These facilities are primarily maintained by the federal government. It is assumed that every state has one. This is contrary to jails, which are usually maintained by smaller jurisdictions. A county or a city can have several jails for that matter. Being maintained by smaller units of the government, jails are obviously smaller in size that can house only a very limited number of detainees. There are also a very limited number of amenities in a jail, if any.

1. Jail is where the offender will be temporarily detained prior to receiving the final verdict of his case. It is also where offenders of minor crimes are placed. Most detainees are those who will serve detention for less than a year.

2. Penitentiary is a detention unit for more serious type of offenders. It is also a place where reformatory discipline and or punishment is done.

3. Jail is synonymous to shorter detention whereas penitentiary suggests longer detention.

4. Jail is maintained by smaller jurisdiction units like counties and cities while penitentiaries are maintained by the state or the federal government.

5. Jails have fewer amenities and are also smaller in size compared to penitentiaries.


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