jail or prison

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When do we use jail and prison?

Word Explanation Example
jail a temporary place of detention, typically for a span of less than one year He was released after awaiting trial in jail.
Someone awaiting trial, for example, will be kept in a jail. This is usually a place under a county or city authority in the USA.
prison If the person is convicted for, say two years, he or she would be transferred to a ›prison‹ to serve out the sentence. Prisons are under the authority of states or the federal government in the USA. They were sent to a high-security prison in New Jersey.
  • In the UK only prison is used.
  • In Australia both words can be used as synonyms.

Thanks to Jaqueline and Vicky.