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The differences in which jails and prisons serve in the criminal justice system

To read more, visit http: Perhaps no other new national experiment besides democracy itself received more attention. From a meeting of The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, convened in the home of Benjamin Franklin in 1787, came the idea that prisons could be places of transformation and not punishment.

This eventually led to the construction of the Eastern State Penitentiary, which opened in 1829 in Philadelphia. The experiment, which included solitary confinement and manual labor as venues for self-reflection, did not work. But the seed of the idea of prisons as places of transformation had been planted. The first Penitentiary in Philadelphia cements that city as a seedbed for reform efforts.

What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?

In 2015, the John D. There is a difference. Jails Many Americans, indeed many Christians, do not know the difference between a prison and a jail.

Definition: Prison

I shake my head when I visit a church with a prison ministry, whose service is to a county jail. But prisons and jails are not the same. Prisons are places where persons serve time of not less than one year, generally on a felony conviction. Jails, on the other hand, house three types of persons: For example, Pennsylvania uses jails for sentences of up to two years rather than one, and some felony convictions of less than one year can be served in some county jails.

But the principle holds: Prisons exist for long-term confinement. In theory, a bail system provides incentive to appear in court, and it makes it more difficult for persons considered at risk to further criminal behavior or even flight, from doing either. Unfortunately, the reality is that the bail system unfairly penalizes low-income persons and families by placing a disproportionate burden on their ability to post.


In the name of public safety, a jail provides a secure setting for those who may be at risk of committing additional crimes in the period prior to trial and sentencing.

However, those who pose little threat to community and society become entangled in a system and its jail facilities that inflict further psychic damage, reduce economic opportunity through confinement, and house disproportionate numbers of poor persons. Jails swell as policing practices find root in custodial arrests, and jurisdictions fail to consider alternative methods of accountability that do not separate the accused from family, community, and employment.

Indeed, a Pew Charitable Trusts study documented an increase from 44 percent to 57 percent of inmates being held for trial between 1999 and 2008.

I did not awaken any morning with mouse feces on my face and blanket, as alleged in one of the Philadelphia lawsuits, but I was very uncomfortable sleeping with my head next to the toilet as the third man in our two-man cell.

Philadelphia is not without its reform efforts. The MacArthur grant will provide resources to develop new assessment tools to determine actual risks of flight and further offense for those arrested and seek alternative measures such as intensive community supervision in its place for those with low risk.

The previous administration did invest heavily in reentry programs, cutting recidivism rates, but the aggressive policing and high bail systems minimized the gains brought on by recidivism reduction. The MacArthur grant will provide more resources to explore, develop, and implement such alternatives. Philadelphia is also beginning to consider alternatives for certain subsets of arrestees, such as veterans and the mentally ill.

While speaking at a conference of Christian college students, I asked the group if any of them did not know where to buy drugs. Not a single hand was raised. The penitentiary movement affirmed that all people are created in the image of God and possess the rational faculties of reflection and the spiritual capacity of transformation.

What’s the difference between prison and jail?

My jail time exposed me to inmate-created protocols that exhibited glimpses of grace and reminders of real humanity. Even more desirable a practice, inmates would wait until the cell was unoccupied when residents went to the central day room for TV, recreation, or classes, and would go back to the cell and move their bowels.

The investment and implementation of the MacArthur initiative should give us the opportunity to reclaim the humanity of those convicted of crimes, to provide chances for real personal transformation consistent with our Christian understanding of humanity, and to resist unjust punishments based on income and race. The MacArthur initiative is a step in the right direction.