Felicity Huffman was just sentenced to 14 days behind bars. Here’s the difference between a jail and prison sentence.

felicity huffman

  • Felicity Huffman was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison for her role in the college-admissions scandal. 
  • Before her sentencing, speculation had run rampant over whether Huffman would spend any time at all behind bars — and, if so, whether she would do her time at a jail or a prison.
  • Though the terms “jail” and “prison” are often used interchangeably, there’s a difference between the two.
  • For instance, jails are usually run by local authorities and hold inmates before trial or sentencing. Prisons, meanwhile, are run by state and federal authorities, and are designed for long-term, post-sentencing detention.
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The actor Felicity Huffman became the first person sentenced in the college-admissions scandal, after a federal judge on Friday gave her 14 days in prison.

Her sentence also includes a $30,000 fine, supervised release for a year, and 250 hours of community service.

Before her sentencing, speculation had run rampant over whether Huffman would spend any time at all behind bars — and, if so, whether she would do her time at a jail or a prison.

The judge said Friday that Huffman must report to “a facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons” on October 25, so it’s still unclear exactly what facility Huffman will do time in.

Though the terms “jail” and “prison” are often used interchangeably, there’s a difference between the two. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, jails are run by local authorities such as cities or counties, and are typically used as holding facilities for inmates before trial or sentencing.

Read more: Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in prison for her role in the college-admissions scandal

prison

Though defendants can be sentenced to jail time rather than prison time, that type of sentence usually only occurs when people are convicted of misdemeanor crimes where the sentences last less than a year, according to BJS.

Prisons, meanwhile, are run by state and federal authorities, and are designed for long-term detention. People sentenced to prison time are often convicted of felonies, rather than misdemeanors, and receive sentences longer than a year.

As far as conditions go, jails and prisons across the country can run the gamut. Though jails are sometimes viewed as safer or more preferable than prisons, recent reports indicate that’s not always the case.

For instance, The Sacramento Bee and ProPublica recently reported that California made sweeping reforms to its prison system in 2011 in an effort to reduce its prison population. That change eventually resulted in a surge of violent inmates being sent to county jails rather than state prisons.

The Los Angeles Times similarly reported in May that across the state, some inmates have begun begging to be sent to prison rather than spend more time in county jails.

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