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What Are the Differences Between Jail and Prison in Arizona?

Many people use the terms “jail” and “prison” synonymously. But these two types of facilities have some distinct differences, as much as they have much in common.

When you are facing charges that may lead to prison time, or when you are put in jail for an offense, having the right lawyer on your side can mean the difference between staying locked up or gaining your freedom. At this critical time, you need an experienced criminal lawyer, such as the attorneys at the DM Cantor in Phoenix, Arizona.

Jails of Arizona

Jails are managed by local jurisdictions, cities and counties. These facilities are where people are held for the short term, usually while awaiting a hearing, sentencing, bail to be paid or other court process. When someone is suspected of committing a crime, he or she will be held in a jail as a detainee. Some occupants of city and county jails have been convicted of their crimes and serve a short sentence in the jail instead of being sent to a prison.

When a person is taken to jail, they are processed through a booking procedure. Their case will be heard by the courts and the criminal justice system makes a decision regarding their final disposition, whether that is for release, a short jail term, or a lengthy prison sentence.

Because these facilities are only meant to be used for a short period of time, they have few amenities compared to prisons. Most jails in Arizona provide prisoners with access to a bathroom, food and water. Many are structured as “pods,” clusters of cells on a particular floor of the building. A benefit for some low security jails is enabling individuals to socialize in a common space during a certain timeframe each day.

Jails often have only light security as compared to prisons, because they are meant to hold a relatively small number of criminals who rotate through the system. But if the area of the jail is prone to violence or the jail itself is frequently a scene of conflict among prisoners, security can be strict.

Maximum security and dangerous criminal offenders are usually held in maximum security holding facilities designed to ensure low risk, reduced inmate interaction, officer safety and public safety. Lower West Buckeye Jail houses many maximum security level offenders, whereas jails like Durango Jail and Estrella Jail have more minimum security offenders.

Fourth Avenue Jail in Maricopa County is used primarily as a processing center today. This facility houses courts, is an initial processing center and is where bail is posted for people being held in various jails in Maricopa County. People being held in Fourth Avenue Jail are often those charged with probation violations or parole violations. Some people in Fourth Avenue Jail are in the initial stages of being charged with a crime and will be assigned to another jail after their processing.

What jail people are assigned to after Fourth Avenue Jail usually depends upon their classification. This classification is largely dependent upon the type of crime and determines which jail they are sent to, what pod they will be assigned to and other issues.

Municipal, City and County Jails in Arizona

Below is a listing of municipal, city and county jails in Arizona:

  • Apache County Jail in St. Johns, AZ
  • Cochise County Jail in Bisbee, AZ
  • Coconino County Jail District & Detention Facility in Flagstaff, AZ
  • Gila County Jail in Globe, AZ
  • Graham County Jail in Safford, AZ
  • Greenlee County Jail in Clifton, AZ
  • La Paz County Jail in Parker, AZ
  • Maricopa County 4th Ave Jail in Phoenix, AZ
  • Mohave County Jail in Kingman, AZ
  • Navajo County Detention Center in Holbrook, AZ
  • Pima County Adult Detention Complex in Tucson, AZ
  • Pinal County Adult Detention Center in Florence, AZ
  • Santa Cruz County Adult Detention Center in Nogales, AZ
  • Yavapai County Jail in Camp Verde, AZ
  • Yuma County Detention Center in Yuma, AZ

Prisons of Arizona

Arizona prisons are where sentenced criminals are sent to serve out long-term sentences. These facilities, also known as penitentiaries, are administered by the state. Prisons can hold many more people than jails are designed to hold. Inmates are segregated according to the type of crime they have committed to ensure safety and maximum security where needed.

These facilities have much more extensive amenities for inmates than jails do. This is because many of the prisoners are serving long-term sentences. The amenities typically include common areas for socialization and dining, exercise facilities or yards, facilities for religious observations and services, and educational facilities. Educational facilities may include classrooms, study labs, work labs and libraries. Visitations are also available at these Arizona prisons. For more information about inmate visitation, go to the Arizona Department of Corrections website.

Prisoners usually have a job within the prison that they are expected to maintain every day, with the ability to earn a low wage for personal expenses, such as toiletries and other products purchased from the prison commissary.

Most prisons require inmates to have cellmates with whom they share a cell, toilet, sink and other personal space. Lower security prisons where white collar criminals are housed are often perceived as more like hotels and less like the higher-security prison facilities.

Regardless of security level, prisons develop an intricate social and political structure among prisoners.

State Prisons in Arizona

The state presently has 48 prisons, not including federal prisons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities or county jails. These are grouped geographically into 14 major complexes and two correctional treatment facilities.

Through 2007, prisoners were often exported to other states where they could be housed in privately run facilities as a measure to prevent overcrowding in Arizona prisons. Over 2,000 inmates were sent to Oklahoma and Indiana, before inmates rioted to protest this practice. However, Arizona does import prisoners from other states through today. Vermont, Hawaii and California all send prisoners to Arizona state prisons.

State operated prison complexes include:

Privately operated prisons in the state include:

  • Kingman, operated by Management and Training Corporation
  • Florence-West, operated by GEO Group
  • Phoenix-West, operated by GEO Group
  • Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility, operated by Management and Training Corporation
  • Central Arizona Correctional Facility, operated by GEO Group
  • Red Rock Correctional Center, operated by Corrections Corporation of America

Get the Help You Need to Stay Out of Prison

Defense attorneys at DM Cantor are experienced in defending people that are facing criminal charges that may involve jail or prison time. DM Cantor is an AV® rated law firm, the highest rating awarded by Martindale Hubbell®. David Michael Cantor is a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, as designated by the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization and has also been referred to as the “best criminal lawyer in Arizona” according to the firm reviews by individuals and organizations.

When you need a good defense to avoid jail or prison time, call 602-307-0808 for a free consultation to discuss your case. We are ready to build your best criminal defense and ensure your rights are protected.

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