Incarceration: Can I stay in county jail instead of going to prison? Would I want to?

If you have been sentenced to incarceration for a state felony conviction, you will most likely be taken to a penitentiary within a-few-days-to-a-few-months of your sentencing, depending on the beds available at the prison. But you may have special circumstances that warrant you remaining in the jail, such as a terminally ill parent who would not be able to travel to a prison for visitation. Before you make a request to remain in jail, you should know the basic differences between jail and prison.

Outdoor activity: For the most part, county jails do not have yards and inmates are not allowed outdoors.  This doesn’t seem so bad when you are only in jail for a few months, but a multiple-year incarceration without ever seeing the light of day can be very depressing. Prisons have yards where inmates can exercise, lift weights, play ball and soak up the sun.

Food: Let’s face it, jail or prison food is not going to be good, but many inmates who have done time in both prison and jail insist that prison food is much better tasting than anything the county jail serves.

Video: Beyond Scared Straight Prison Lunch

What’s On the Menu in Prison?

Quarterly packages: Prisons allow families to send in something called quarterly packages. These come from a prison-approved company and typically contain seasonal clothing, books, snacks not offered on commissary and other special items. If you are doing your felony time in a county jail you won’t be allowed to receive quarterly packages.

Visitation: Visits at county are usually on a computer monitor, not in person. At prison, in most cases, visits are in person, face to face and you can hug your loved ones as they arrive and leave. However, the county jail might be easier for your family to come see you. Prisons are scattered all over the state and you could end up too far away to be easily visited.

Final thoughts: If you have a terminally ill or very elderly parent, or some other special need and your county jail has a state waiver to keep felony offenders for longer than a year, you might consider putting in a request to remain at the jail.



About Mark Miclette 682 Articles
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.