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What is the difference between state and federal prison?

Someone convicted of a crime that requires incarceration may wonder whether the court will order that the sentence be carried out at a state prison or a federal prison.

Although there are many similarities between the two, there are also differences to note.

State prison

There are 34 state prisons in Georgia with a total of about 52,000 inmates convicted of crimes outlawed by the state. Felony offenders sent to state prisons are largely those found guilty of committing violent acts such as murder, rape or gun-related crimes. The courts usually send offenders who are escape risks or who have a history of assault to state prisons with close security. There are also medium-security and minimum-security prisons in the state system.

Federal prison

The federal prison system got its start in 1930 under President Herbert Hoover. Federal prisons house those who have violated federal law, such as white-collar criminals and political offenders. For example, inmates include people convicted of identity theft, mail fraud or the robbery of a nationally chartered bank. Like state prisons, federal prisons operate with different security levels.

Work detail

It is often helpful for new inmates of either federal or state prison to know that there will be productive ways to pass the time. With the exception of those deemed unable to work due to medical issues, inmate employment is a requirement in the federal prison system. Inmates can expect to earn $10 to $25 per month for a variety of jobs from plumbing or landscaping to food service and teaching. Jobs available in the state system are much the same. Both federal and state inmates housed at the medium- and minimum-security levels may be able to perform heavily supervised work outside prison walls in farming endeavors or construction, for instance.

Legal options

Exploring the legal options available focuses on expertise in working toward the best possible outcome for a particular criminal matter. If incarceration is among the considerations, a successful defense will explore options that result in the minimum sentence length, whether it be state or federal prison.

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