Jail vs Detention Center: Difference and Comparison

In the case of ordinary criminals, imprisonment is not always necessary as a punishment. Jail is the first place where a person with criminal charges is taken after being arrested by the police. However, the term detention center does not have any official meaning. It is a broad term, and its purpose is to provide an environment for sentenced young people or juveniles. Both terms are almost similar to each other.

Key Takeaways

  1. Jail is a facility used to hold individuals arrested or convicted of a crime for short-term confinement. At the same time, a detention center is a facility to hold individuals awaiting trial or deportation.
  2. County governments run jails, while federal or state governments run detention centers.
  3. Jails provide more extensive facilities and services for inmates, while detention centers are more spartan.

Jail vs Detention Center

The difference between jail and detention centers is that a jail is a facility the local government authority offers for temporary custody. On the other hand, the detention center is related in conjunction with juveniles. Jail is a smaller place in comparison to the detention center. Detention centers also have some correctional facilities.

Jail vs Detention Center

A jail is mainly a small place where people are held captive for temporary custody. It is used for detaining inmates awaiting sentencing. Jails are administered by local law enforcement. It refers to a facility for the punishment of people who have not been charged with any serious crime. Moreover, the jail is a local facility.

A Detention Center is a broader concept and a place for minor criminals. In a detention center, prisoners are more liberal, and they can work around the campus. Detention centers are classified as maximum, medium, and minimum centers according to the type of criminal offenses. Detention centers are mainly for juveniles. People with minor criminal backgrounds are housed in detention centers.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison  Jail  Detention Center  
Meaning  Jail is a place where criminals are held captive for temporary custody.  Detention centers are the place where juveniles are held captive when they are detained.  
Authority  Location authority.  State government or regional governments.  
Types  Three levels of jails include sub-jail, district Jail, and central jail.  There are detention centers with camp facilities, community-based, correctional treatment, detention facilities, and residential treatment.  
Purpose  To captive criminal defendants after arrest until the declaration of actual punishment.  To keep people who have entered a country illegally and for the juveniles who are sentenced.  
Facility  It provides a local temporary facility and comparatively a smaller place.  It has large facilities and covers a region.  
Area  Jail is a small place.  The Detention Center is a large place.  

What is Jail?

Usually, jail refers to a small facility provided by the local authorities or police where people with criminal charges are held captive for temporary custody. There are very few numbers of jails that the state government or the federal government controls. The term jail stands for Judicial Accountability Initiative Law. In jail, prisoners are waiting for their trials.

Jail is a place where a citizen goes after committing an unlawful activity but has not proven guilty in court yet. The term jail has a negative connotation in our society. This place is for people with a criminal charge who have not made bail. People who are held captive in a jail or prison without any evidence of crimes are supposed to be considered innocent in the eyes of the law.

There are various types of jails: minimum-security jails or federal prisons, low-security jails, medium-security jails, high-security jails, and administrative jails. Depending on the criminal charges, one may spend less or more than a year in jail. Jails sometimes offer work release and educational and vocational programs. Jails can be provincial, city, district, and municipal levels.


What is Detention Center?

A detention center is where detainees are temporarily confined by a country or federal government. It is more like a private prison, and people go there after committing an unlawful activity or crime. Detention centers are more for juveniles, and it gives more facilities than the jail.

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Detention centers are large places that include facilities like juvenile, military, and immigration centers. Most of the detention centers provide a correctional facility. It provides national and regional facilities and is classified into maximum, minimum, and medium centers.

In a maximum-security detention center, violent criminals are housed. People with comparatively middle-range sentences are held captive in the medium-security detention center. Minimum detention centers are the place for those having the shortest sentences. A detention center encompasses the facilities of jails, prisons, and camps.

Main Differences Between Jail and Detention Centers

  1. Jails provide temporary custody for people with criminal offenses. On the other hand, detention centers are private prisons where a country confines detainees.
  2. Jail is a smaller place than a detention center.
  3. Jails are mainly for adults. On the other hand, the detention center is mainly for juveniles.
  4. Detention centers provide more facilities than jails. It includes facilities like juvenile, military, and immigration. On the other hand, the jail provides local facilities for short time custody.
  5. Jail is the first place where the person is taken after being arrested. On the other hand, detention centers provide an environment for the juveniles who are sentenced.
  6. Jails exist at the local, state, and federal levels. On the other hand, detention centers are categorized into maximum, medium, and minimum detention centers.
Difference Between Jail and Detention Center
  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/get-pe-doi.cfm?doi=10.1037/e557002006-001
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0306624×04269673

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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8 thoughts on “Jail vs Detention Center: Difference and Comparison”

  1. Although the terms detention center and jail are used interchangeably, they have important differences. For example, detention centers are run by federal or state governments, while jails are operated by county governments.

  2. The distinction between jails and detention centers hinges on several factors, including who operates them and the type of inmates they hold. This variation reflects the diverse needs of the criminal justice system.

  3. Jails and detention centers are linked to the criminal justice system, but their functions and the detainees they hold are quite distinct. Awareness of these differences is crucial in understanding the correctional system.

  4. There are various types of facilities for temporary detention of individuals accused of criminal activities or awaiting trial. Jails are smaller, while detention centers are larger and can include different levels such as maximum, medium, and minimum centers.

  5. The distinction between a jail and a detention center lies in the scale and scope of the institutions. Jails are local facilities for short-term custody, while detention centers can offer a broader range of services and are operated by state or federal authorities.

  6. Understanding the differences between jails and detention centers requires an appreciation of the specific purposes and operations of these institutions within the broader context of the legal and penal systems.

  7. Jails and detention centers serve different purposes and hold different types of inmates. It’s important to understand the differences and the varying levels of facilities that each type of institution provides.

  8. A jail is a place that is used to temporarily detain individuals who have been convicted or accused of a crime. Minor criminals are mainly housed in detention centers, which are more versatile and include correctional facilities.


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