Penitentiary

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Penitentiary

A prison or place of confinement where persons convicted of felonies serve their term of imprisonment.

Cross-references

Jail.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

penitentiary

n. a state or federal prison in which convicts are held for commission of major crimes (felonies).

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

PENITENTIARY. A prison for the punishment of convicts.
     2. There are two systems of penitentiaries in the United States, each of which is claimed to be the best by its partisans: the Pennsylvania system and the New York system. By the former, convicts are lodged in separate, well lighted, and well ventilated cells, where they are required to work, during stated hours. During the whole time of their confinement, they are never permitted to see or speak with each other. Their usual employments are shoemaking, weaving, winding yarn, picking wool, and such like business. The only punishments to which convicts are subject, are the privation of food for short periods, and confinement without labor in dark, but well aired cells; this discipline has been found sufficient to keep perfect order; the whip and all other corporal punishments are prohibited. The advantages of the plan are numerous. Men cannot long remain in solitude without labor convicts, when deprived of it, ask it as a favor, and in order to retain it, use, generally, their best exertions to do their work well; being entirely secluded, they are of course unknown to their fellow prisoners, and can form no combination to escape while in prison, or associations to prey upon society when they are out; being treated with kindness, and afforded books for their instruction and amusement, they become satisfied that society does not make war upon them, and, more disposed to return to it, which they are not prevented from doing by the exposure of their fellow prisoners, when in a strange place; the labor of the convicts tends greatly to defray the expenses of the prison. The disadvantages which were anticipated have been found, to be groundless.; Among these were, that the prisoners would be unhealthy; experience has proved the contrary; that they would become insane, this has also been found to be otherwise; that solitude is incompatible with the performance of business; that obedience to the discipline of the prison could not be enforced. These and all other objections to this system are, by its friends, believed to be without force.
     3. The New York system, adopted at Auburn, which was probably copied from the penitentiary at Ghent, in the Netherlands, called La Maison de Force, is founded on the system of isolation and separation, as well as that of Pennsylvania, but with this difference, that in the former the prisoners are confined to their separate cells during the night only; during the working hours in the day time they labor together in work shops appropriated to their use. They cat their meals together, but in such a manner as not to be able to speak with each other. Silence is also imposed upon them at their labor. They perform the labor of carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, shoemakers, tailors, coopers, gardeners, wood sawyers, &c. The discipline of the prison is enforced by stripes, inflicted by the assistant keepers, on the backs of the prisoners, though this punishment is rarely exercised. The advantages of this plan are, that the convicts are in solitary confinement during the night; that their labor, by being joint, is more productive; that, inasmuch as a clergyman is employed to preach to the prisoners, the system affords an, opportunity for mental and moral improvements. Among the objections made to it are, that the prisoners have opportunities of communicating with each other, and of forming plans of escape, and when they are out of prison, of associating together in consequence of their previous acquaintance, to the detriment of those who wish to return to virtue, and to the danger of the public; that the discipline is degrading, and that it engenders bitter resentment in the mind of the convict. Vide, generally, on the subject of penitentiaries, Report of the Commissioners (Messrs. King, Shaler, and Wharton,) on the Penal Code of Pennsylvania; De Beaumont and De Toqueville, on the Penitentiary System of the United States; Mease on the Penitentiary System of Pennsylvania; Carey on ditto; Reports of the Boston Prison Discipline Society; Livingston's excellent Introductory Report to the Code of Reform and Prison Discipline, prepared for the state of Louisiana; Encycl. Americ. art. Prison Discipline; De. I'Etat Actuel des Prisons en France, par L. M. More au Christophe; Dalloz, Dict. mot Peine, Sec. 1, n. 3, and Supplem. mots Prisons et Bagnes.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in classic literature ?
He hated the chain that bound him, the men who peered in at him through the slats of the pen, the dogs that accompanied the men and that snarled malignantly at him in his helplessness.
'Am I going to keep a clerk for my own pleasure, or because of my own wish, you provoking rascal!' said Mr Brass, putting his pen in his mouth, and grinning spitefully at his sister.
They crossed the railroad tracks, and then on each side of the street were the pens full of cattle; they would have stopped to look, but Jokubas hurried them on, to where there was a stairway and a raised gallery, from which everything could be seen.
In the deep silence I could hear the pen of my secretary traveling steadily over the paper while it wrote those words.
"Pen, ink, and paper, then," called Fernand loudly.
But whether he sold his pen or no we are bound to confess that Defoe's desire was towards the good, towards peace, union, and justice.
The Portuguese smiled a brilliant smile that Harvey learned to know well later, and a short-handled fork began to throw fish into the pen on deck.
Lady Lydiard pointed to the pen tray, with a smile.
"No, friend " replied Raoul, smiling, "I am obliged to you, but at this moment I want nothing but the things for which I have asked -- only I shall be very glad if the ink prove black and the pen good; upon these conditions I will pay for the pen the price of the bottle, and for the ink the price of the pie."
He mechanica lly dipped the pen in the ink, and then hesitated.
The Beaver brought paper,portfolio, pens, And ink in unfailing supplies: While strange creepy creatures came out of their dens, And watched them with wondering eyes.
The coming in here from the bedroom, with my pen and ink and paper, before sunrise--the sitting down at the widely- opened window to get all the air I could to cool me--the ceaseless writing, faster and faster, hotter and hotter, driving on more and more wakefully, all through the dreadful interval before the house was astir again--how clearly I recall it, from the beginning by candle-light, to the end on the page before this, in the sunshine of the new day!