I was going through some old threads and this one caught my eye. I am going to break it down further then federal and state to the local county and city level. Most states in the US are divided into smaller counties (a parish in Louisiana). For each county there is usually a county sheriff that is an elected official that has law enforcement background. When you are convicted of a state crime that has a sentence of less then a year you are housed in county jail which is usually in the county seat (where the district and magistrate courts are located and the county offices). For example, DUI is 1-5 days in jail, it depends on the state law, and usually work release (picking up trash on the roadway or cleaning the local park) and a fine and a loss of driving privileges. If the crime has a longer sentence then the inmate is sent to a state prison that can be anywhere in the state. Within the state prison system there are different levels of prison from minimum to medium to maximum. An inmate that starts in a max prison with good behavior may be transferred to med. The different levels determines the freedoms you are allowed in the prison setting. In the prison my husband works (medium) there is also a separate facility for minimum. In min, there are up to 60 inmates in a large dormitory and in the med they are housed two to a cell. There is only one max in the state and that has death row. Medium is a misnomer because there are "lifers" at the medium prison. In California there is a prison (Pelican Bay) that they send the inmates that commit crimes in other prisons, it is considered to have the most infamous prisoners in the US (Charles Mason etc). The "hole" in most prisons is 24 hour solitary confinement. At my Dh job an inmate in the hole gets out for a shower by themselves with the two guards and 30 minutes alone in the yard. Inmates are sent to the solitary for committing infractions in prison for up to 6 months depending on the offense. I hope that answers some questions.