Difference Between Federal Prison And State Prison

Laws are made so that a country can have some sense of orderliness and sanity. However, there are those who usually break the law due to one reason or another. To avoid further damages and losses, these criminals are removed from society and put behind bars. Technically, they are taken to prison so that they can reform and become responsible citizens.

When it comes to prisons, you will realize that they are classified into different types. For instance, there are juvenile prisons, military prisons, federal prison, state prison, and psychiatric prisons. In this article, we shall pay attention to federal and state prisons. After all, most people usually confuse these two types of prisons. This way, you will know the distinction between these two prisons.

What is a Federal Prison?

As the name suggests, the above-mentioned type of prison is meant for those people who have broken federal laws. People who are incarcerated here are purported to have committed crimes across state borders and even against the officials and institutions of the government. Besides this, if you have been charged with white-collar crimes such as racketeering, money laundry, and fraud, you will be taken to a federal prison.

When it comes to the management of these prisons, they are usually managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Typically, this is a federal law enforcement agency that operates under the department of justice. Finally, federal prisons are usually financed by the federal government.

What are State Prisons?

Unlike federal prisons, state prisons are meant for those individuals who violate or break state laws. A good example of crimes that can make one imprisoned here includes rape, murder, and gun-related offenses. It is imperative to note state authorities usually manage these prisons. Besides this, these prisons are usually financed using tax money that has been generated by the state. Finally, these prisons are known to have many inmates.

prison concept to understand Federal Prison vs State Prison

Main Differences Between a Federal Prison And a State Prison


Like we mentioned above, federal prisons are usually managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons while their counterparts are managed by the state authorities.

Quality of management

Since the federal government usually finances federal prisons, these prisons tend to have better services than their counterparts. After all, they are allocated a huge share of the budget year-in, year-out. From the prison facilities to the training programs offered here, you can trust that everything is superb.

On the other end, state prisons are usually funded by the tax collected by the state. Since this tax is not always enough, sometimes the state of these prisons is compromised. In fact, state prisons tend to have poor management. Consequently, inmates do not get the much-needed rehabilitation programs.

Movement of prisoners

When it comes to the movement of prisoners, you will note that prisoners in the federal prisons can readily be moved from one prison to another while those in the state prisons are not free to move. Technically, those in the state prisons are bound to serve their sentence in the state where they got convicted.


If you have committed white-collar crimes, you will serve your sentence in federal prisons. However, if you are a hardcore criminal, you will be taken to state prisons. To put it into perspective, drug offenders, corrupt individuals, fraudsters, and money launderers are sentenced to federal prisons while rapists and murderers are sentenced in state prisons.

Length of sentence

When it comes to the length of sentence, this period differs as far as these two prisons are concerned. For instance, those sentenced in federal prisons tend to remain behind bars for longer periods than those in the state prisons.

Colour of uniforms

Just like any other prison, inmates usually wear a particular uniform for identity purposes. However, inmates in the federal prisons usually wear uniforms of the same color while their counterparts wear uniforms that have different colors.


Security is another aspect that separates these two prisons. For instance, federal prisons tend to be more secure than state prisons. After all, federal prisons are well managed compared to state prisons. In most cases, you will note that these prisons have electric fences, high walls, heavy-armed guards, and so forth.

This means that it is difficult for an inmate to escape a federal prison. However, we have had scenarios where inmates found their way out of state prisons. Generally, it narrows down to the quality of management in these prisons.


Once a criminal has been sentenced, he or she does not remain idle as he or she is subjected to different kinds of work while in prison. However, the nature of work each inmate is subjected to is not always the same across all prisons.

For instance, those in the federal prisons are not subjected to any type of work. There are certain kinds of work that they ought to do while in prison. On the other hand, those in the state prisons can do any work given.

Number of inmates

Federal prisons tend to have a fewer number of inmates compared to state prisons.

Number of prisons

As we speak, the number of federal prisons stands at 122 while that of state prisons stands at 1719.

Final Thoughts

Although inmates usually undergo counseling and rehabilitation in both prisons, there are several aspects that differentiate federal prisons and state prisons. A good example is how these prisons are managed, quality of management, the kind of criminals sentenced in each prison, and so on. By knowing the differences between these two systems of incarceration, you will be able to know what to expect if you have an inmate in any of them.