Inmate Searches – What is a Jail? A State Prison? A Federal Prison?

Justin Walker, an Oklahoma Inmate that is serving life in Prison poses for a picture with a smuggled Blackberry.

What is a JAIL?
(aka Detention Center)

Jails are facilities designed for holding people (adults and juveniles) accused of committing a crime and those who are serving sentences after conviction. On average, one half of the people in jails have not been convicted of the crime they’ve been charged with. The remainder of the jail population is convicted inmates serving sentences of less than one year.

Jail Time is temporary – Prisons, because of the time an Offender lives there, becomes their Home

What is a STATE PRISON?

State Prisons are facilities designed to house people convicted of breaking state laws and ordered to serve from one year to life incarcerated. Those convicted in a state court and given the death penalty are also held in state prisons.

What is a FEDERAL PRISON?

There are several different categories of Federal Prisons, prisons under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Federal Government.

1. Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)

Federal Prisons house people convicted of breaking federal laws and ordered to serve from one year to life incarcerated. Those convicted in a federal court and given the death penalty are also held in federal prisons.

They fall under the jurisdiction of the United States Government. They’ve crossed state lines in the commission of their crimes or affected an institution under the authority of the federal government, such as a federally insured bank or the US Postal Service.

Only 73% of BOP Inmates are American citizens.

2. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Individuals who have been found to be in the United States illegally and have not committed a crime that would put them under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons are held in these facilities until their case is heard. ICE Facilities are primarily temporary holding facilities. Because they are temporary, there is are considerable amount of inmates transferred between the facilities on a regular basis.

ICE works closely with the BOP, State Prisons, County and City Jails on matters involving the detention and transfer of illegal immigrants. ICE also has the distinction of being the only detention program that holds all members of detained families in the same facility whenever possible.

ICE Facility populations are very fluid, however the majority of the time approximately 70% of the detainees are of Hispanic origin.

3. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)

Individuals that are arrested, being held of convicted of crimes that require short term incarceration on Native American controlled land (reservations) fall under the jurisdiction of this federal department. Each of the jails, detention centers and holding facilities are located and managed on and by the Native American Tribe which controls the reservation where the crime was committed.

BIA offenders that have been convicted and sentenced to more than one year serve their time in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities.

Native American inmates make up approximately 2% of the BOP population.

4. U.S. Military Prisons and Jails

This group of Jails and Prisons are inhabited by members of the U.S. Military who are being detained or serving sentences for crimes committed on a military base or in foreign lands where they are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Military.

5. U.S. Enemy Combatants – High Value Detainees (HVD)

U.S. Enemy Combatants are individuals from other nations who have declared war on the United States and are held by the U.S. Government or U.S. Military. In times of war, and specifically the War on Terror we are in the midst of, these facilities become more visible to us and sometimes controversial.

People whose lives intertwine with the world of jails and prisons fully understand the difference between them, but most people just don’t know. Finding information about a facility or finding an inmate can be daunting. Hopefully this will give you give you enough information to get you started in your search for a jail, prison or incarcerated inmate.

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Click here to see lists and information about all 8,906 Jails and Prisons in the United States.

Click here for a FREE search of Inmates in every Jail and Prison in the United States.

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writes about inmates, jails, prisons, courts and the lives of people who live and work within the United States Criminal Justice System. His mission can be summed up in a single word; transparency.