Jail vs Prison vs Penitentiary

1 Answer(s)

The differences here are rather subtle but they are nonetheless different.


  • A jail is somewhere that people are held for a short period of time whilst they await trial.
  • After this time they may be sent to prison or be let free.
  • A prison or penitentiary is somewhere that long term sentences are served and where serious criminals have to go.


It can be difficult with legal terms to recognise the differences because of how far back legal history goes. Times change and with that so do the terms used in those times. Just keep your learning up-to-date and keep reading new definitions.

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Curious Answered on 22/09/2015.
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