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Difference Between Jail And Prison

When you order your criminal background check, it may let you know that the person you looked up has spent time in jail or prison. Most people think jails and prisons are the same thing, but in reality they are quite different. Knowing the difference will give you a better sense of what the information you have been provided means.

Jails tend to be run by counties, and are where people go if they are convicted of minor crimes or if they are awaiting trial. In most cases, the sentences are for up to 18 months. Most people in county jails are not hardened criminals. They are people who have missed child support payments, been convicted of drunk driving, or gotten into a bar fight. While it’s not great to have spent time in jail, it is generally not very serious. And it may be that the person spent time in jail while waiting for a court date, and then was found not guilty – meaning they are not a criminal at all.

Prisons, on the other hand, are run by the state or federal government. To go to prison you have to have been convicted of a crime that carries a sentence of over 18 months. This is where drug dealers, armed robbers, and other people convicted of serious crimes are sent. They are full of hardened criminals, and it is rare for someone to come out of prison and not be changed by the experience. People who have been sent to prison are much more likely to commit another offense than people who have been sent to jail.

This should give you a good guideline on how to make a decision about if the person you looked up who spent time behind bars is someone you want to become a part of your ongoing life.

Parole And Probation

If someone has been convicted of a crime, they may be on parole or probation and not a jail inmate. We hear these terms talked about on crime shows, but much of the general public does not know what they really mean. Since you may learn that someone you have looked up is on parole or probation, we’d like to talk about what the difference is between the two statuses.

When someone is on parole they have not only been convicted of a crime, but they have also served time in a jail or prison. Because of overcrowding or good behavior, or both, they have been released before finishing their sentence, but they are not exactly free. Instead they have to serve out the rest of their sentence on the “outside” while following certain rules set by the court. This generally means meeting with their parole officer on a regular basis, taking drug tests, and holding down a job. Should they fail to comply with the court in any way, they will be sent back to prison immediately.

Probation is completely different. It means that someone has been convicted of a crime, but the court is not convinced that they are a hardened criminal. So, the court has ruled that they don’t have to spend time in prison. Instead, for a given period of time, they must check in with the court through a probation officer and demonstrate that they are now complying with the law. Probation is often given to first-time minor offenders, often for low-level drug or minor assault charges.