Difference between Jail, Prison and Halfway House
For people who find themselves on the wrong end of the law, life’s choices become limited to either jail or prison. While seemingly one and the same place, they actually have a number of differences, along with halfway houses, which are separate places entirely. Let's take a look at what features and characteristics they all have.
A jail is a detention area where people that are convicted or suspected of crimes are housed. Jails are often operated by the county government. There are currently about 3,600 jails in the United States alone.
A prison is a detention cell as well, although unlike a jail, it is intended for long-term confinement. Prison is where people convicted of more serious crimes are held. These are typically operated by the state or federal government.
A halfway house is a place that serves as a rehabilitation center for people that have come from another institution, which may be a prison or a hospital. The main purpose of such places is to provide a venue for people to make a transition to the outside world.
In some cases, jails and prisons may be used to hold people who haven’t been charged with a crime yet. This is a particularly common scenario in countries where detention is used as a tool for political oppression. In such cases, detainees are more often political prisoners rather than true criminals.
Prison system refers to the organization of the operation of a prison, and it may involve some form of corrections system. While jails often contain prisoners temporarily–either for subsequent release or transfer to a more secure facility–prisons hold detainees for longer periods for purposes of rehabilitation, or to keep them away from the public.
A halfway house serves an entirely different purpose, in that it is often intended to be a place where people begin the process that will eventually reintegrate them with society, all the while providing them with monitoring and support services. Halfway houses are set up so that these people have a smoother path to eventually rejoining the real world. Halfway houses are often but not always voluntary, with the voluntary residents having sometimes no criminal record.
Jails aren't usually equipped with many features and amenities, since they are designed for temporary detention. That being said, some county jails may offer work release programs and other programs intended to prevent drug abuse or to address the work and employment needs of the inmates.
Many prisons, on the other hand, have some kind of work release programs in addition to halfway house services. Some prisons may even have facilities for vocational training, and even for entertainment and recreation.
Many halfway houses, for their part, have extensive rehabilitation programs in which residents may get counseling for substance abuse or some other concern. Some programs may also offer employment and housing support.
Similarities and Differences
- A detention area where people that are convicted or suspected of crimes are housed
- Often operated by the county government
- A detention cell as well, although unlike a jail, it is intended for long-term confinement
- Typically operated by the state or federal government
- Serves as a rehabilitation center for people that have come from another institution
- Provide a venue for people to make a transition to the outside world