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What is the difference between jail and prison in Iowa?

"Jail" and "prison" are two words that are often used interchangeably. They are two very different things, however. So what exactly is the difference between jail and prison?

In Iowa, as in most states, jails are meant to be relatively short-term holding facilities. They are generally operated by county sheriff's departments and are used primarily to house people who have been arrested and are awaiting trial. They can also be used for individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanors and are serving sentences of less than one year.

Prisons, on the other hand, hold inmates who have been convicted of felonies and are serving their sentences. A felony is any crime that carries a penalty of one year or longer in prison. In Iowa, prisons are run at the state level by the Iowa Department of Corrections. The federal government also has a prison system.

It's important to keep in mind that even if one is found guilty of a crime or pleads guilty, prison isn't necessarily the only option. Alternative sentencing options such as drug treatment and other rehabilitation programs are often available. Prison sentences can be suspended and the individual placed on probation instead. In many cases these options can be negotiated between defense counsel and prosecutors.

A cornerstone of our criminal justice system is that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If you have been arrested, you have the right to defend yourself against criminal charges. This requires a carefully planned legal strategy. An experienced attorney can help you understand your legal options and choose the legal strategies that can help you protect your freedom and your future.

Source: Broward County Sheriff, "What's the difference between jail and prison?" accessed Sept. 30, 2016

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