Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
A prison is both a physical container and an institution. A prison contains people, typically those who have violated criminal law and have been sentenced to a period of incarceration. Prisons, also called “penitentiaries” and “correctional facilities,” are distinguished from jails in the United States by length of confinement: jails incapacitate those who are charged with but not yet convicted of criminal offense or who are serving shorter sentences, typically one year or less. Prison and jail, along with probation, constitute the corrections component of the criminal justice system. Prisons have also been used as tools of governments seeking to incapacitate critics of their practices, hence the term political prisoners . Originally used to hold persons before trial, the prison as a penal institution—that is, the modern prison—came into existence by the end of the 18th century. As such, it denies inmates a range of basic personal rights and privileges. ...