The American Jail Population

     In a legal sense, the jail is the point of entry into the criminal justice system. It is the place where arrested persons are booked and where they are held for their court appearances if they cannot arrange bail. It is also the cit…

     In a legal sense, the jail is the point of entry into the criminal justice system. It is the place where arrested persons are booked and where they are held for their court appearances if they cannot arrange bail. It is also the city or county detention facility for persons serving misdemeanor sentences, which in most states cannot exceed one year. The prison, on the other hand, is a state or federal institution that holds persons serving felony sentences, which generally run to more than a year.

     The public impression is that the jail holds a collection of dangerous criminals. But [in reality] the jail holds only a few persons who fit the popular conception of a criminal--a predator who seriously threatens the lives and property of ordinary citizens. In fact, the general majority of the persons arrested and held in jail belong to a different social category....

     Beyond poverty and its correlates--under-education, unemployment and minority status--jail prisoners share two essential characteristics: detachment and disrepute. They are detached because they are not well integrated into conventional society....They are disreputable because they are perceived as irksome, offensive, threatening, and even protoevolutionary [throwbacks].

John Irwin, The Jail: Managing the Underclass in American Society, 1985

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/