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Colorado Jail and Prison - What is the Difference?

Colorado Jails and Prisons

Those not familiar with the Colorado judicial system are often confused about the differences between a county jail and a Colorado prison in counties like Denver, Jefferson, and Arapahoe County. There are many differences between any individual correctional facility based on the focus of the facility and those who run it. If you have been charged with or convicted of a crime, and you are unsure whether jail or prison is a possibility, the following information will help you know the difference and gain a better understanding of what is possible.

What are Colorado Jails?

Colorado has 64 counties, like Douglas, Adams, and Broomfield County. Each county has their own jail which is run by the county's sheriff department. Because of this, each facility will vary from others in the treatment of prisoners and the level of security. The sheriff has the authority to decide what inmates will eat, wear, and what kind of living environment they will have. Because of this, some sheriffs have made radical changes to inmate life, such as Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who makes his inmates wear pink underwear and live in tents during the state's extreme heat.

In Colorado, persons convicted of misdemeanors can be sentenced to up to two years in jail. Some felonies can receive up to 90 days as a condition of probation. Sheriffs have the authority to modify how much time an inmate ultimately serves. For example, if an inmate has been sentenced to serve a year in the county jail for a crime such as Theft, C.R.S. 18-4-401, the sheriff can give good time credit and let the inmate out earlier, but not later, based on factors such as behavior, type of offense and jobs held while in custody.

The Difference with Prisons

Reserved for convicts with felony crimes, prisons have much higher security than a jail, and inmates will serve a longer sentence here. Unlike jails, Colorado prisons are statewide, and are run by the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC). There are currently 19 public and 5 private prisons managed by the DOC. Many prisons are referred to as correctional centers/facilities, because of the focus and treatment each prison offers. After an inmate's sentencing, the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center looks at their crime and police reports to decide which prison they will be sent to. Factors which affect this decision are the type of offense, anger levels, drug levels, or the need for special classes like sex offender treatment.

If you are facing the possibility of a jail or prison sentence, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact the O'Malley Law Office today, at 303-731-0719. Together, we can protect your future.

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  • Sexual Assault and Rape charges related to divorce. Acquittal from jury trial. Weld County, Greeley, Colorado.
  • Sexual Assault on a Child, Possession of Child Pornography. Acquittal from jury trial. Jefferson County, Golden, Colorado.
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  • Burglary and Felony Theft. Dismissed by District Attorney. Arapahoe County, Englewood, Colorado.
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  • Sexual Assault on a Child, Position of Trust. Acquittal from Jury Trial. Adams County, Brighton, Colorado.
  • Domestic Violence. Dismissed by District Attorney. Douglas County, Castle Rock, Colorado.
  • Violation of Restraining Order. Dismissed by District Attorney. Douglas County, Castle Rock.

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