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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.


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
References in periodicals archive ?
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.
Butler's outstanding recent work, Gendered Justice in the American West: Women Prisoners in Men's Penitentiaries (Urbana, 1997), provides the only comprehensive study of women committed to men's penitentiaries between 1865 and 1915.
Foreign observers such as Gustave de Beaumont, Alexis de Tocqueville, and William Crawford were surprised at the low numbers of women they found in American penitentiaries.
By the 1850s England had two national penitentiaries for women that housed six and four hundred prisoners each.
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.
25) Throughout the century, the majority of those admitted to the penitentiaries were between seventeen and nineteen.
Accordingly penitentiaries became more specialist: separate institutions for former prostitutes, for child victims of incest, for alcoholics, and for thieves, were set up around Great Britain.
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?