What is the difference between jail and prison?
Although the terms jail and prison used interchangeably in casual conversation, they’re two different types of institutions. Jails are smaller in scale and usually operated by a local Government or Sheriff’s Office. Their purpose is to hold people for a short period of time. For example: people waiting for trial or individuals who have been sentenced to less than one year of incarceration.
Prisons are run by Federal and State Governments and confine individuals who have been convicted of crimes and who’ve been sentenced to at least one or more years of incarceration.
You can read our article “The Intake Process for Prison” here.
The most frequently asked questions about preparing for prison or jail
A frequently asked question our Harrisonburg VA attorneys receive from potential clients facing jail and/or prison time is how to prepare for incarceration. Specifically, people want to know what they’ll be allowed to bring and keep with them after intake at Rockingham County Regional Jail, Middle River Regional Jail, Virginia Department of Corrections (VA DOC) or Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
If you’re sentenced to time in jail or prison, what can bring with you?
Few jails or prisons publish a list of allowable items as the rules are subject to change and may be at the discretion of the intake team. While every facility will have different restrictions, it’s common (however there’s no guarantee) to be permitted to bring the following:
- Prescription eyeglasses
- Necessary prescription medications and/or proof of prescription
Prescriptions should be current and in an authentic pharmacy-issued container displaying the patient’s name, date of RX, and any dosage instructions.
- US dollars (less than $200 is recommended)
Most jails and prisons deposit your money for you into a personal spending account usable for their in-house commissary. Commonly up to $300 USD can be maintained in your account.
- Piece of paper containing the contact information of your legal team, family, and anyone else you want to be able to contact during your incarceration.
- Foam earplugs
- Flip flops made of rubber or foam (cannot contain metal) for showers
We recommend leaving jewelry (yes, even wedding rings) behind as these, along with any other personal items or clothing that’s deemed non-permissible, may be required to be shipped back to your home address at your own expense.
Middle River Regional Jail also allows select undergarments if they adhere to the Jail’s guidelines, which are detailed here, on their website.
What items can you receive from visitors or acquire from the jail?
Jails and prisons will allow you to purchase personal items from their commissary that are not otherwise provided by the institution. As every institution’s rules differ, the following list is not a guarantee of permissibility, but a list of commonly acceptable items inmates may keep in their cells.
- Magazines (non pornographic)
- Puzzle or word find books
In what other ways should someone prepare for incarceration?
This article provides helpful recommendations for managing finances, family matters, communications with your employer and bank, and more.
We can help you to prevent prison time
If you or someone you love needs a criminal defense attorney in Harrisonburg VA, we invite you to schedule a FREE criminal consultation with our lawyers in Harrisonburg Virginia. We have Spanish speaking attorneys and can help you to hire a translator if you need legal assistance in any other language. Consultations typically require less than one hour during which time we will review your case and advise on next steps.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.