County prisons are mostly known as “jails” that are under the jurisdiction of local government, while prisons are those places of confinement under the control of the State or Federal government. These county jails are prisons that hold inmates that are waiting for trial, or serving a short sentence. The county jails are operated under the authority of a city, local district, or county. Among the inmates housed in these short-term facilities are a) people who were arrested for minor offenses and misdemeanors, like theft, public intoxication, simple assault, disorderly conduct, or trespass, and are awaiting a plea agreement, trial, or their sentence; b) individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime or a less serious felony who are serving their sentence in the local county prison; and c) those who were sentenced to state prison and are waiting to be transferred to a state or federal facility. In order for a defendant to be sentenced to county prison, he has to be sentenced to less than a year in prison.  Meaning the inmate’s sentence has to be less than 11.5 months to 23 months in prison.  If a criminal defendant is sentenced to a year or more in prison, then that sentence is a state sentence and the inmate can only be paroled by the Pennsylvania state parole board.

In Pennsylvania, there are 66 county jails that run under policies and procedures implemented by the individual county government. The Chester County prison is classified as a medium security county prison and is located about 10 minutes south of the borough of West Chester. However, inmates being housed at the Chester County Prison are divided into three different groups.  Those held in minimum security (typically inmates charged with DUI and theft.  Those inmates kept in medium security (typically inmates charged with felony drug charges or other felony charges.  And inmates kept in maximum security, (inmates charged with murder, rape etc). The current Chester County prison was opened in 1959. The mission of the Chester County Prison is to guarantee a safe environment for the public and the inmates which is why the prison attempts to separate and classify inmates differently for their own safety.