Understanding the Differences Between Prisons and Jails in Arizona

Jail and prison terms cannot be used interchangeably.

Understanding the Differences Between Prisons and Jails in Arizona

In Arizona, if you have been charged with, or convicted of, a crime you may end up spending some amount of time behind bars. However, the venue of your incarceration depends on whether or not you have been convicted of a crime versus still awaiting trial, as well as the level of your criminal offense. While jails are local entities that often have lower security inmates and are used for lower-level crimes and charges, prisons are run by the state, provide up to maximum security, and hold offenders who are serving long-term sentences for more serious crimes.

Arizona Jails

Jails are the lower of the two levels of incarceration and may also be known as detention centers or correctional facilities. Municipalities within Arizona manage their own jail systems, from the city to the county level. An individual suspected of committing a crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, can be detained in jail while they await court proceedings and sentencing. In other cases, people convicted of misdemeanor crimes may serve their sentence in a jail if their length of incarceration was ordered to be a year or less.

Click through to find learn about some of the jails within Arizona:

Jails in Maricopa County

Coconino County Detention Facility

Mohave County Jail/Detention Facility

Jails in Pima County

Glendale City Jail

Chandler City Jail

Apache County Jail

Scottsdale City Jail

Arizona Prisons

Prisons are the higher of the two levels of incarceration and may also be known as state penitentiaries. Operated by the State of Arizona through the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC), prisons are larger than jails and are designed to hold individuals convicted of felonies who are serving sentences of longer than one year.

Additionally, prisons offer more services and amenities to inmates than can be found in jails, due to the long-term holding of the inmates, which may allow for them to work, gain education, exercise, or practice their religion.

The DOC provides this look-up tool for anyone searching for an inmate in an Arizona prison.

The DOC also provides a directory and map of all the prisons within Arizona, including both state prisons and private facilities. Each prison provides different levels of security, with the state’s highest-security prison located in Tucson.

Juvenile Detention Centers

Juveniles under the age of 18 can be sentenced to time in juvenile correctional facilities. Like jails, these facilities are run by local municipalities and help protect the community while also providing the incarcerated youths the tools they may need for rehabilitation and a positive re-entry into the community. These include, but are not limited to:

Adobe Mountain School

Pima County Juvenile Detention Center

Santa Cruz Juvenile Detention

Durango Juvenile Detention Center



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
  • fines or probation in lieu of jail time.

At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.

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