Law enforcement expert witness Richard Lichten gives an inside view on the causes of jail and prison riots:
I’m often asked which is more dangerous, and which is harder time, jail or prison. In my opinion and in the opinion of hundreds of inmates I’ve spoken with, hands down, jail is more dangerous and the time is much harder to serve. The reason for this is that in jail there is a very good chance young, non-violent inmates with little jail savvy will be housed in the same area with hardened, experienced, violent inmates who have no issue taking advantage of the uninitiated and vulnerable. Persons entering jail and prison for the first time have no idea how to act. They haven’t the slightest clue about showing respect to other inmates and have no idea how to interact with the staff. Remember, in jail it’s all about showing respect.
In jail you have far less privacy than in prison. You have far fewer chances to go to school and work, and you have far less recreation time. For example, in jail you might get your allotted three hours of yard time a week, where in prison you can spend hours a day in the yard. Believe me, yard time is a big deal. I’ve had many inmates tell me that they cannot wait to get to “catch the chain” so they can relax in prison.