Instant Inmate Search

Start your FREE search
The following is for informational purposes only

City Jails

City Jails

A category of incarceration institutions in the US includes City Jail facilities. These institutions are not unlike county jails, gathering inmates from specific cities in a jail facility, usually to await trial or sentencing. Smaller cities and towns often use county jail facilities that are shared by towns in the county. Larger cities sometimes utilize dedicated city jails.

What are City Jails?

City jails are facilities, usually utilized by large cities, to house people that are awaiting arraignment, trial or sentencing. Smaller cities and towns usually use shared county jails, but cities like New York, Chicago, Glendale, CA and many others have their own city jail institutions.

In addition to the temporary and transitional nature of their situations, the people detained in city jails are often there for a very short time before being released or transferred to a different facility, with stays being as short as 72 hours in many cases. For this reason, city jails often do not accept letters or packages or publish an inmate roster.

What Type of Inmates can be Found in City Jails?

What Type of Inmates can be Found in City Jails?

City jails house men and women, with some being co-ed facilities, while others are solely male or female. Some characteristics of city jail inmates can include:

  • Non-violent – usually people held at city jails are not violent and are being held on fairly minor charges. More serious charges often mean that an inmate is transferred to a facility with more security, such as a county jail or prison. There are some exceptions to this, especially with larger city jails.
  • Disadvantaged / Poor – many that end up in city jails cannot afford their bail, and that is why they are being held. It is common for city jails located in impoverished areas to have a large contingent of poor inmates.
  • Illegal immigrants – because illegal immigrants can be apprehended in cities, they can end up in city jails when they are first arrested.
  • Juveniles – it is not uncommon for city jails to hold minors prior to their being placed in juvenile facilities.
  • Mentally ill individuals – city jails often end up detaining mentally ill people whose illness has caused them to get arrested.
  • People that were approved for bail – city jails rarely house those whose bail is denied, and those inmates are usually transferred to larger and more long-term facilities.

What are Some Examples of City Jails?

City jails can be found all around the US. Some well-known city jails include:

  • Brooklyn Detention Complex – a larger city jail in New York, this facility houses over 800 male prisoners
  • Glendale, CA Jail – this is a smaller city jail which has just 96 beds, but it is the third busiest jail in Los Angeles County.
  • Birmingham City Jail – this 200-bed capacity jail is well known for jailing Martin Luther King, Jr., and it was from here that he sent his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in 1963.

City Jail Categories and Trends

Jails are categorized by size:

  • Mega jails house 1,000 inmates or more.
  • Large jails host 250 – 999 inmates.
  • Medium jails have 50 - 249-beds.
  • Small jails have a 1- to 49-bed capacity – these are currently the most current

Over the last twenty years, many city jails have been closed and replaced with county and regional jail facilities. This was done as a cost saving measure. At the same time, new city jails that have been built in the last ten years are generally trending to be bigger facilities with higher capacities. An explanation for this is the rising amount of incarcerations in the US, which has been steadily climbing for the last thirty years. Larger city jails are often high-rise buildings that optimize limited city land.

City Jail Categories and Trends

Older city jails are often in buildings that are no longer up to the current building safety codes. For this reason, their home cities can face the complicated decisions of whether they get updated and stay open, or whether it is best to close them and to utilize other, newer facilities. It can also mean that those held in these older buildings can experience daily difficulties like poor ventilation, or low-quality water.

City jails are their own category in the world of jails and prisons. They vary in size and age, but they provide an important service in the realm of criminal justice.

Instant Inmate Search