Prison v. jail: the differences

Prison v. jail: the differences

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Michigan residents facing a criminal charge often have many questions and fears. One of their biggest concerns usually involves whether or not they will face any sort of incarceration, and what exactly the difference is between jail and prison.

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County jail and prison

In Michigan, the time limit of the incarceration period is the main factor in determining whether someone will be sentenced to county jail or prison. If a sentence is for one year or less, it will be served in the county jail. This rule applies to both misdemeanors and felonies.

However, if a sentence is more than one year, it must be served in one of Michigan’s prisons. There are state, federal or private prisons. If the individual was convicted on state criminal charges, the sentence will be served in state prison, and if the conviction was based on federal charges, the sentence will be served in federal prison.

There are various terms used for prison. It may be referred to as a penitentiary, rather than a prison. States outside of Michigan may use terms such as treatment facility or correctional facility. All these terms mean the same thing as prison.

City jail or lock-up

Along with jail or prison, Michigan also has something called city jail or “lock-up”. The main difference between city jail/lock-up and county jail or prison is that an individual cannot be sentenced to city lock-up. Rather, it is a place for temporarily holding someone after an arrest.

Individuals are held in city jail/lock-up in situations where they may be a danger to themselves or society, such as being highly intoxicated, or if they were arrested on an outstanding warrant. They may also be held simply to await transfer to county jail or a court hearing.

Whether it is jail or prison, anyone facing criminal charges typically dreads any period of incarceration, and that is understandable. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help reduce any negative penalties or consequences and fight for an outcome involving no jail or prison time.