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A jail is an institution used to confine people awaiting trial and those sentenced for low level crimes, like misdemeanors. Jails are between a police station lockup and a prison in terms of incarceration. Jails exist at the federal, state, and local levels (city and county jails). By contrast, prisons are used to hold felons (those convicted of a felony) sentenced to more than one year of imprisonment.

[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]