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The Difference Between Jail and Prison

Difference between jail and prison

Prison and jail are often used interchangeably as places of detention, but they serve different purposes. So should you say prison or jail? This is a great question.

While both are a form of confinement, here ends the commonalities between the two. Each of them has their own distinct meanings in terms of the length of imprisonment, the seriousness of the crime, and who runs it.


How do you differentiate between "Jail" and "Prison"?


Discover the basic difference by looking at each term separately.


1. How to use "Jail"?

Jail is used in American English, meaning a temporary place of detention often for less than a year, or as a person awaiting trial. Examples:

  • He was released after awaiting trial in jail.
  • She was sentenced to three months' jail.

See: Difference between listen and hear

2. How to use "Prison"?

Prison is used for a convicted person, who is transferred to a prison to serve a prison sentence, and is used in British English, examples:

  • They were sent to a high-security prison.
  • He died in prison.


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