The differences between prison and county jail

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.

35 thoughts on “The differences between prison and county jail

  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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..

    1. 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

  5. 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!

    1. 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

      1. 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!

        1. 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

          1. 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.

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