The differences between prison and county jail

By Texas Magnum

There are quite a few differences between doing time in county and doing time in actual prison. County jail is usually freezing, prison is usually really hot. County jail is usually much more boring as there is no recreation or classes or exercise. Prison has a better, larger rec yard and there are vocational and educational classes and work is assigned.

The prison I am in is a Texas State Jail, originally created to hold Class 4 felons on 2 year or less charges. However due to the massive overpopulation in the Texas Department of Corrections, many Texas State Jails now have a portion of their space allocated to 3rd degree or higher felons. The unit I am in is a new unit, and actually one of the few that have air conditioning. This is probably considered a plus by many, as most prisons are not air conditioned and also most cells or dorms do not have fans either. A few inmates can purchase fans in the commissary but this is considered a “special” purchase and many cells and dorms don’t have electrical outlets for them anyway. I personally don’t mind the heat too much so even though it’s nice to have, I could live without it. But don’t get me wrong, I won’t turn it down.

In prison the commissary is much better stocked. If an inmate has funds (sent to him by family or friends) he can buy chips, sodas, and even Bluebell ice cream and popsicles. There are all kinds of hygiene products like soap, deodorant, athlete’s foot cream, vitamins, and shampoo. There is canned tuna, peanut butter, ramen noodles, and many other food items. Tea bags are a good buy.

Also in prison there is coffee. Crappy coffee, but coffee. In County jail there was nothing to drink except for room temperature water and milk served with meals. Here ice tea is served at meals.

Here at my unit there are a few vocational classes and educational classes but they are very crowded. I signed up for Commercial Painting but there are no openings yet. I was also assigned a job doing yard work like mowing but I have not been called to work yet, and it’s been several months. So, in theory we are more busy, but in actuality, besides exercising more I am not that busy. I do play my guitar and harmonica in the church choir. There is church and AA and NA classes available, and there is a small library. We can also have books sent to us from places like Amazon or Barnes and Noble or a few specialty places for prisons. I can also receive stationary supplies.

Before arriving at prison it is normal to feel anxiety about what might happen. The rule of thumb is mind your own business. You can’t really be yourself, and you need to keep an eye on your back. The way it usually goes down is, once you arrive you find the group you fit in with best, based on race. There is a lot of racial tension and segregation in prison. No matter if you are friends with people of other races on the outside, in here you can’t be. I am mixed race so that gives me a few more options but I still had to choose who I was going to align myself with with here.

One of the stressful things is that the men want to fight for many different reasons. Because you looked at them in some way they didn’t like or some other action that they felt was disrespectful is a main reason for fights. A lot of it, most of it, is stupid stuff, but it doesn’t matter, that is the way it is. So you go along with the rules and you mind your own business and try to keep out of trouble.

Everyone here is looking at parole or hoping to get out, and even though there are some more violent offenders here, in general this is not a “bad” prison as far as violence and fighting goes. If you fight and get caught, you lose privileges, get put in Ag Seg (Agrravated Segregation), and possibly affect your parole chances.

There is no way to really describe what it is like here. It is not what I expected in many ways. It is something you can’t even describe. I will make it through this but I hope that none of you reading this need to experience it for yourself.

  1. Anonymous says:

    My Ex husband has a charge of a 3rd degree felony. Driking and driving. He is also an illegal immigrant. He has spent 8 mo in County Jail. They say he will be doing 2 yrs State Prision. Is that possible

  2. Kourtney Judkins says:

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  3. Laura says:

    I have a question. I’ve spent months researching this and cannot find an answer. My husband is currently serving 5 years on his 5th DWI. He was on parole last year when he got his 5th charge and was convicted on May 21 2015. Obviously they revoked his parole and accepted an offer of 5 years. He is now serving both sentences concurrently. My question is this: why would his projected release date be the same as his maximum release date? He is a non 3G. He tells me his time sheets reflect good conduct time, but the inmate search website does not reflect this. He is a TDCJ inmate currently at the dominguez state jail unit. I search other inmates in the same facility and with similar records, and all show an earlier projected release date. Again, he is not convicted of any aggravated crime. My understanding is that he should have an earlier projected release date if there is no 3G offense. Could this be an error? If so, who would I contact? I cannot seem to get through to anyone on the help lines for TDCJ. Thanks for any insight you might be able to provide.

  4. Moneka Jones says:

    My boyfriend just got locked up in Houston Texas and is Harris county now.. He has 2 years TDC. Is he eligible for early release credit.

  5. jasminmartinez says:

    my brother was at hidalgo county for 6 months, i know he was transferred to tdc last tuesday, i still have t heard from him i checked online and it says hes at byrd unit, hunstville tx, will he be there for a while or its a transfer unit? i also saw his prd and it said two years from now? his sentence was 6 years so how does that work, hes only 17..

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Jasmine, I am sorry to hear about your brother’s sentence at such a young age. That is a tough start to life as an adult. He will probably end up being moved from Byrd but you can write to him or send him things now, and if he is moved they will send his stuff on to him, and his commissary will transfer along with him also. When you write him or send him anything be sure to include his TDC number on everything. On his PRD, that is generally speaking a pretty good indicator of when he will be released on parole. That is if he doesn’t get himself into further trouble while at the prison. If I were to have a chance to talk to him, what I would tell him would be to avoid gangs, keep himself busy any way he can, take any courses or work that he can, attend church or AA or NA groups, even if he feels that is not his thing it’s better than sitting around feeling sorry for himself and getting involved in stupid crap. And to use this time to better himself in some way, either through reading, exercise, prayer, meditation, or all of it. I highly recommend a book named “We’re All Doing Time” by Bo Lozoff. You can send it to him from or from Amazon. It’s really good and really helped me. The best thing you can do for your brother during this time is to keep in touch with lots of letters. Getting letters from home, and photos, is great when you are incarcerated. It doesn’t even matter if the letter is short or really has no news, just hearing about everyday things going on outside helps a lot. Peace, for you and your brother ~ Magnum

  6. Debbie says:

    How is this place called Holliday in huntsville

  7. Bella says:

    Hi! Thank you for sharing your story Texas Magnum as it has given me a bit of an eye opener as to how prison is. A relative of mine, just got transferred from county jail to the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville -and I was told he was being held at the ‘Holliday Unit’…I also heard that the living conditions in there is not so great and they describe it as a big room with many offenders packed in there. Is that true? Also, how long does an offender transfer from the Holliday Unit to his/her permanent unit? Can we make any contact with him while he is being held there or no? Thank you! I hope they will get back to you as soon as possible for work! Take care!

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Bella, yes it’s true there are pods with a lot of bunks with many inmates to a pod. It takes getting used to. Yes, as soon as you find your relative in the Inmate Locator you can write to him, just be sure to include his TDC # on the envelope by his name. And if you want send him a little money for his commissary account which he will use to buy personal hygiene products like deodorant and toothpaste, things like that, and also stamps. Paper and envelopes for writing letters. It has to be a money order if you mail it – there is a recent blog post with all the ways to send money. He will be at Halliday a short time while they figure out what unit to send him to. This is based on things like the crime he is in for, his past record and any Gang affiliations. The best thing you can do for him is to keep in touch with letters. Getting mail from home is the highlight of an inmate’s day. It doesn’t even need to have much news just chit chat from home is nice. Peace ~ Magnum

      • Bella says:

        I been doing so much research about the living conditions at the Holliday Unit and happened to come across a photo of it and i’m stunned! Horrible! Do you know where offenders with the offense of murder will be held at permanently?

        I have already deposit money into his trust fund back account there. I am in the process of writing him a letter. I know at this time he is not allow to make phone calls out to us. So, I’m waiting patiently until he gets permanently transferred to his unit.

        If they all live there in a ‘pod’ – where do these offenders keep their belongings at? Like, if they purchase goods from the commissary department.

        Thank you!!! Have a great day!

        • Texas Magnum says:

          Hey Bella, there isn’t any way to know where he will end up. First they might send him to a general population unit and depending on his behavior he might stay there or go somewhere else. You can expect he might get moved around a few times until he finally gets settled in. As far as where inmates keep there stuff, yes he will get a locker – it’s about the size of the end of the bed and about a foot deep and if you want you can buy a lock for it. Where he is now is a little crappier than where he will end up because it’s a transfer unit and it’s whole purpose is just moving inmates in and out. Be patient while your family member gets settled in. Sounds like, from what you say, he might be there for s while, hang in there. You might want to check out http://www.prisontalk.com_ it’s got a huge forum with a lot of good info and support for anyone with a family member in prison. Keep us posted how y’all are doing ~ peace ~ Magnum

          • Bella says:

            General population?! wow…i ‘m just so stressed with it all. Thank you for giving me some info. You are very helpful. I will check out that site.

            Yeah, with a murder offense. Ehh… I just don’t know where he will be kept. I just want to know when he will be able to have visitation and call out to me – because, I know it’s hard on him. I’m just concerned with his well being and health. But, thank you.
            By the way, you have a bio about yourself here?

            I’ll see what happens.

  8. Slim says:

    My boyfriend just went back to prison i don’t know we’re he is at because its not showing up he been lock up for 39 days he took five years with 15 mounts back time from when he first went to the pin but he didn’t catch a new case why he was on probation I was just wondering about how much time will he do

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Slim, that really isn’t enough information for me to be able to tell you much. Is he still being held in county waiting to catch chain? When parole or probation is revoked, normally the person is in a county jail for awhile, waiting to be sent to TDC. You might check the local county jail. Regarding how much time he will do, well that is always the big question. Lots of things affect that. I say first you let him get to his unit, then start thinking about when he will get out. Peace ~ Magnum

  9. Rick says:

    Thank you for your willingness to share. My son has found himself going to prison. His mother and I are overwhelmingly hurt but try not to show it to him. We love our adult kids beyond words. We have protected them all their younger years and offered a pretty good life to them all. I don’t understand why anyone would take as many risk as he had that eventually put him where he is now. I am scared for his wellbeing and don’t understand why prisoners will turn on one another the way it is described by you and others. I don’t understand why it means nothing to civilians or our government not to provide some type of cooling system even if it isn’t real A/C. There are other ways like water cooling systems. I have read in articles about the Garza unit in Beeville Texas where prisoners have died from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If we are going to utilize the prison system as a way of discipline, they should at least be provided with humane facilities. regardless of reasons why they’re there. We have an obligation to treat others with human compassion. I will say this, I was completely unaware that prisons didn’t have some type of cooling system until I started reading what conditions my son will have to live like for the next few years.
    If anyone know of an organization where the outside world can fight for some civil right to prisoners, please provide the info so I can look into it. Thank you Texas Magnum for sharing and providing information as you have.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hey Rick, I do know there are civil rights groups and petitions dealing with the lack of AC in the units. However, I think the chances of them making much progress by the time your son hits there is slim. Most people (those without family in prison) don’t see it as a problem or are unaware as you mentioned you yourself was. You might be relieved to know that there are a couple units that do have AC. Maybe your son will get lucky and land there. I have suggested to many folks on here to take a look at It’s a very large forum with a big section for parents of those imprisoned. There is a lot of good information and support there. My own mother found it a place where she could talk to other parents in the same situation and I think it helped to relieve some of her fears and worries. I suppose its a place that no parent imagines themselves being. I am a father now, I guess my kids are two small too even think that far ahead yet, but I will do everything to talk sense into them as they grow, that is for sure. I ended up in prison by my own fault, 100%. Just like your son, I had lots of chances and a good life. I don’t know what got your son in trouble but my drug use was pretty intense and today I believe that prison probably saved my life. I was on the highway to hell, no doubt. Try out a visit to, and stay in touch here too, there are a couple other folks who drop by regularly with updates and questions. My hope and belief is that as time passes this will all seem less like a nightmare for all of you. It’s strange what can become your new “normal”. Your son has some challenges ahead but my bet is he will do just fine and get this behind him quicker than you think. Peace to y’all ~ Magnum
      PS – if your son is still free waiting for sentencing, feel free to suggest he email me directly. I would be happy to answer any of his questions. He can write me at

  10. Anonymous says:

    My bf just got transferred from ft. Bend county this morning around 4am to TDC. Do they automatically go to transferring units first? I’ve read a few of the blogs already where you did say it takes a few days for them to come up in the system. Bc I tried looking for him and nothing popped up. & I put money on his books last night do you know if they send that to him or if it stays there in county?

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Anonymous, They should forward him his money. And he will show up within a couple days. I am sure by now you have found out where he is at. Sorry for the delay in responding to your questions, the heat has been killing me these days, working long days on a roof in the 100 degree heat kicks my ass but making hay while the sun shines, as they say. Peace ~ Magnum

      • Anonymous says:

        They never forwarded it. We have been writing back and forth tho so he told me just to call county & let them know. Also do you know more or less how they treat cases? He first got in trouble for aggravated robbery back in 2009 then revoked his probation. then when he went to court this last time and they made him a deal to where he could sign for 2 years and get the aggravated part dropped so that it’s just robbery. That’s why he’s at where he’s at right now (Huntsville) bc he signed on July 5th. I was wondering now since they dropped the agg part if it would even matter to the parole people or whoever does it. Or do they go off of what he first got convicted of. If I’m making any sense. Lol

  11. Anonymous says:

    What does temp release mean? He was denied parole bc nature of charges and history and has to serve full 3 years but why is it showing temp release if so.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Temporary release can be if a person is sent from prison to a county facility to face other pending charges they have. For instance if they were charged in Bexar County and sent to prison but there are charges from Comal County on them, then they would be sent to Comal County jail and held there while they have court for those charges. Or sometimes it can be for a medical release if they for some reason needed to go to the hospital. And, there is such a thing as emergency release when an inmate is allowed to attend a funeral of a close family member. That is pretty hard to get granted and has strict rules around it.

  12. Shannon says:

    Evading arrest was a state jail felony. My friend will have to do the full two years and no parole? That’s what I read….and I’m seeing it here. His record said with credit for time served. What does that mean? He served 20 days in jail before getting bonded out then he was out til court. So do those days count too? That would make 63 days total. Two months. Am I right

    • Texas Magnum says:

      That is correct. State jail felonies do not get parole or let out early for good time. It’s day for day and he will serve the full two years. He will get credit for the days he spent in jail. It’s a crazy system because a person with a great felony charge may end up home well before him doing a state jail felony. Magnum

  13. Rea says:

    My dad is now in jail. We do not know yet how long he will be in there, we can bail him but he got two warrants and one is from “possession of controlled substance less than 1 gram”. I am looking for blogs and doing research because it hurts my heart that I don’t know anything about jail and prison in general besides the fact that I know it sucks to be in there. I would love to know you and if you could please help me know more.

    • Texas Magnum says:

      Hi Rea, I was not on the site for awhile and just now I am seeing your comment. I hope by now you have learned more about what your dad will be facing for time. I know it is a scary time for the family too, and I want you to try to not worry too much about your dad. It is not fun for anyone, and he will miss you all a lot so the best thing you can do for him is write him letters. Inmates really REALLY like getting mail. Even a short note can cheer up there day. But overall remember he is a grown man and he will figure out the way to handle himself and if he minds his business and does what he should he will be home in no time at all.

  14. alicha says:

    My husband just got 6 months state jail. Whats the differanec in state jail and prison

    • Texas Magnum says:

      State jail is for lower felony offenses. A state jail sentence is day for day, in other words, he must serve the full 6 months and won’t be released on parole before that time.

      • Sabrina says:

        I am doing research for one of my classes. I would like to cite this post in my paper if you don’t mind. I don’t see a date on this post, when did you write this post?

        • Texas Magnum says:

          Hi Sabrina, the article was published on March 7, 2011. Thank you for your interest in our penal system – in two words – “it sucks.” ~ Magnum

  15. Carolyn garza says:

    My bf signed for 6 months in state jail due to revocation of probation. He already has served 2 months in county. How long does it take to get sent to state jail?

    • Texas Magnum says:

      That isn’t possible to say. Generally speaking, once the person is SENTENCED then they will try to move him out of county and into State within approximately 45 days because after that the state needs to pay that county facility, and they don’t like to do it. But, if there is not a space for him at State, that may take a little longer. Once he is going, they will let him know to get his things together. He may have time to call you and let you know, or, he might tell a buddy in jail with him to call you, if he doesn’t have time to call before he is picked up. 6 months in total will go by fast though, hang in there. Good luck to you and your boyfriend. ~TM

  16. Julie says:

    WOW thank you for the information. I came across this site asking for the differences between county&state time. My beautiful 30yr old niece, a victim of sexual child abuse @age 4 (by her father) has suffered from substance abuse,self-esteem issues,etc &was doing Extremely well in a program & in life these last 3yrs until 2months ago when she met “Sam”. She now faces the serious possiblity of time in prison (not just from slipping back onto drugs but a burglary charge as well. That charge is SO unlike her (Sams career choice) &it scares me to think the system here in California will fail her. So i’m trying to get a better understanding of the whole situation & i Thank you so much for the giving of your time &valued information. You guys keep reaching out &my best to you to sir! JkVill California

    • Texas Magnum says:

      I am glad the site helped you. Addiction can really bring out the worse in someone, I hope you can maintain a relationship with your niece while she goes through this, she can use your love and support. The truth is, incarceration is not designed to really rehabilitate. That will have to come from within herself. If it’s possible you might consider sending her the book “We are all doing time” by Bo Lozoff, it was very helpful to me. You can find it at the Human Kindness Foundation site, at They will send copies for free to indigent inmates too.

  17. sonia says:

    i am wonderring if state prison and department are the same thing