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see prisonprison,
place of confinement for the punishment and rehabilitation of criminals. By the end of the 18th cent. imprisonment was the chief mode of punishment for all but capital crimes.
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Place for the imprisonment of inmates and for their reformation through discipline and work.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


1. (in the US and Canada) a state or federal prison: in Canada, esp a federal prison for offenders convicted of serious crimes
2. RC Church
a. a cleric appointed to supervise the administration of the sacrament of penance in a particular area
b. a priest who has special faculties to absolve particularly grave sins
c. a cardinal who presides over a tribunal that decides all matters affecting the sacrament of penance
d. this tribunal itself
3. US and Canadian (of an offence) punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
After 1867 the state took over management of the penitentiaries, leasing out the prisoner's labor to private contractors.
There was no prison yard per se and no hospital, chapel, library, or dining hall, standard features of most penitentiaries by this time.
Illinois' architects and penitentiary inspectors toured several eastern penitentiaries before designing Joliet.
During these early years the female prisoners at Joliet may have been supervised by the warden's wife, a common practice in other penitentiaries at the time.
While acknowledging the brutality and exploitation which women often faced in many nineteenth-century male penitentiaries, it is equally important to emphasize the ways in which women successfully resisted, subverted, and manipulated penal regimes.
Penitentiaries, the fledgling communities argued, must be the special province of sisterhoods; because ordinary women, those who were married or who were likely to marry, could not be permitted to work with the fallen.
The first lesson learned by the communities which established penitentiaries (usually known as Houses of Mercy) was that penitentiary work demanded special skills and attitudes and that not all women were able to function effectively in it.(13) In penitentiary sisterhoods, at most one-quarter to one-fifth of the sisters worked directly with penitents (often called Magdalens).(14) Even those sisters who were successful in this work did not find it easy at first.
The penitents were young, usually in their late teens or very early twenties.(25) Throughout the century, the majority of those admitted to the penitentiaries were between seventeen and nineteen.
Several communities made provision for more permanent care for alcoholics, after discovering that these women's addiction made it difficult for them to stay sober and to retain respectable employment.(36) In this context, penitentiaries can be seen as therapeutic communities, and the penitents as patients in treatment.
The range of individuals entering penitentiaries raises questions of motivation: why did these women want to enter?