I work overnight in the largest county jail in my state. We serve up to 600 inmates, usually in the neighborhood of 500. What I like about working in a jail is that I get to create a compassionate experience in a system that is not intended to be compassionate. The variety of the job is cool: part office nurse, taking care of walk-ins; part acute care, taking care of and monitoring acutely ill people, especially those withdrawing from drugs/alcohol; part registration nurse, conducting medical admissions assessments on all new arrests who are going to housing; part triage nurse, assessing new arrests who have injuries that may require attention in the emergency room prior to accepting into the jail; part emergency nurse, responding to medical ELIS calls, assessing, stabilizing, and sending out patients when necessary; and documenting, documenting, documenting.
The challenge of working overnight is that, while I have a fabulous LPN with me with a separate scope of practice and tasks, I only have available an on-call provider. One of the best parts is having a fair amount of autonomy and far less commotion than the other shifts. I also like the 8-hour shifts so much better than the 12-hour shifts that are usually the rule in hospitals.
Working in a jail usually means working for a vendor that contracts with the jail. Medical is separate from security and security runs the show. The environment is tightly controlled and nurses new to the environment often find it intimidating. For instance, there are locked doors and sally ports for every unit, hallway, entry, and exit that require being buzzed through by control. I, personally, find it comforting to know that I am never alone with a patient, that there is always an officer present during any encounter. In that respect, it's a far safer environment than my other job in adult psychiatry in a community hospital.
If this is something you're considering, I'd say to give it a shot. It's the coolest nursing job ever. It's broadened my horizons, taught me a lot about leaving my attitudes outside, and given me the opportunity to practice all sorts of nursing in one location.