Different Kinds of Prisons

In everyday speech, we often use words prison and jail interchangeably. But in reality, it’s far from it. In fact, there are many different tiers of penitentiary facilities. Depending on the severity of the crime and the duration of the sentence, an inmate can be sent to different kinds of facilities.

Criminal defense attorneys know all of this, but if you are accused of a crime, it is useful that you know this as well.


The lowest tier in the complex system of penitentiary facilities in the USA are local and county jails. Their primary function is to detain people who have been arrested, but not yet processed by the judge and who haven’t had their trial yet.

Additionally, their second function is to hold inmates who are sentenced to a duration of up to a year. Not all the states use the same system, but this is generally the rule.

State Prison

If, however, you are sentenced to a longer than a year, you will be housed in a prison. Depending on the severity of your crime and the law you have broken, you may be sent to a state or a federal prison.

State prisons are funded and operated by the state they are in. Additionally, states have a degree of freedom to set up their own prison system, so incarceration is different in different states.

Federal Prisons

Federal prisons are the final level or correctional facilities in the USA. The first federal prisons were established in 1891 when the Three Prisons Act was passed. Those three prisons were Leavenworth in Kansas, Atlanta in Georgia, and McNeil Island in Washington State. These facilities are funded directly from the Department of Corrections’ budget and aren’t as numerous as state prisons.

Specialized Prisons

Apart from these three levels of prisons, there are some specialized facilities for special categories of prisoners. The US military has its own prisons for the members of the military staff who committed various crimes. In fact, every branch of the US armed forces has their own correctional facilities. But they still need attorneys https://www.monderlaw.com/pratice-areas/military-criminal-defense.

There are also prisons for prisoners of war, where people who are considered threats to national security are held. The treatment of these prisoners has been a matter of debate for years and is still far from resolved.

Psychiatric facilities are used to house felons whose mental state makes them a potential threat to themselves or others. These facilities are much more oriented towards treating their illnesses than other types of prisons.

Juvenile prisons are facilities which are designated for inmates who are younger than 18 years. BY law, these inmates cannot be put into regular prisons. Juvenile facilities are heavily oriented towards education and prevention of recidivism.

Security Levels

You’ve probably heard the expression ‘maximum security prison’. This is another designation that prisons get depending on the level of security and the type of inmates that are sent to these facilities.

Minimum security prisons are reserved for so-called white collar crimes; typically nonviolent criminals are put in these facilities. Fewer guards and more lax rules are found in these facilities.

Medium security prisons are the most common type of prisons. The majority of criminals are sent to a facility of this type. The guards in these facilities are armed and the day of the inmates is much more strictly monitored.

Maximum security facilities are typically reserved for the most violent and serious offenders. You can expect to see a lot more guards and much stricter discipline in these facilities.

When facing serious criminal charges, you need to consider every eventuality, but the most important thing you can do is get yourself a good defense attorney.

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