Jail v. Prison in Florida

February 28, 2022 Criminal Defense

The Differences between Jail and Prison in Florida

If you’ve been convicted of a criminal offense in the State of Florida, you could be sentenced to incarceration in jail, prison, or a different type of correctional facility. Though people use jail and prison interchangeably, in reality, there are very key differences. The difference usually lies in the length of the incarceration, with jail being for shorter sentences and prison for longer sentences, but there are many other differences between the two correctional facilities. Keep in mind that general reports of the programming available do not paint an accurate picture of what incarceration in the state looks like.

Jail Overview

Who manages jails?

Generally, jails are run by local law enforcement, county law enforcement, or local government agencies.

When will you be held in jail? 

    • If you are awaiting a sentence
    • If you are convicted of a misdemeanor
      • If you are serving sentences consecutively for multiple misdemeanor offenses, you might spend over a year in jail
    • If you are serving a sentence with a length of a year or less time

What is jail really like?

Jails are usually less developed than prisons. This is because people stay there for a shorter amount of time, so they generally do not have long-term programming often seen in Florida’s prisons. Though the jail experience will differ based on the offender, some commons reports include:

  • Constant flows of individuals, affecting inmates’ schedules and getting in the way of regular eating, sleeping, or exercise schedules
  • Work release programming
  • Bootcamp programming designed to rehabilitate the offender
  • Educational programs
  • Substance abuse programs
  • Vocational programs
  • Less comfort than prisons because of the shorter stays
  • Lower budgets for food and other necessities

Prison Overview

Who manages prisons?

The Florida Department of Corrections manages prisons. In fact, they manage 143 correctional facilities in Florida, but this number includes prisons, private correctional facilities, camps, and others. Federally, in Florida, there are nine prisons. These federal prisons are managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

When will you be held in prison?

    • If you are serving a sentence for a length of more than a year
    • If you are convicted of a felony offense

What is prison really like?

Prisons are designed to hold offenders for longer periods of time, resulting in better development, generally. There are different levels of prisons depending on the severity of the charges, like maximum security or low security. This could affect what prison is like for each individual offender. Generally, reports of prison living say:

  • Low-security prison is more comfortable than maximum-security prison
  • Living in dormitories rather than cells
  • There is a right to visitation
  • There is a right to make phone calls to family and legal representation
  • There are more resources available for long terms stays, like intensive educational or rehabilitative programming (this will vary depending on the security level)
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Vocational education
  • Chaplaincy services
  • Work release opportunities
  • Access to medical and dental care
  • Usually, better food than in prison because of a better budget for resources


While this is a general overview of what jails and prisons in Florida offer, the day to day of jail or prison life can vary wildly. There have been reports that Florida’s correctional facilities are “violent, underfunded, understaffed and oriented almost completely toward punishment rather than rehabilitation.” This could be because “[d]uring the post-recessionary period of the early 2010s, the state slashed prison spending, leading to staffing shortages and cuts to inmate programming.” The result includes huge detriments, like “[i]nexperienced prison guards, inmate idleness, increased gang activity and a near-constant flow of contraband into prisoners’ hands.”

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

Obviously, no one wants to spend time in jail or prison. That is why, if you or a loved one have been accused of a crime in Florida, you should contact a knowledgeable Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm will fight zealously for your freedom. Contact us today at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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