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.