ETYM French, from Latin prehensio, prensio, a seizing, arresting, from prehendre, prendere, to lay hold of, to seize. Related to Prehensile, Prize, Misprision.
Place of confinement for those accused of and/or convicted of contravening the law; after conviction most jurisdictions claim to aim at rehabilitation and deterrence as well as punishment. For major crimes, life imprisonment or death may be the sentence. Parole and probation programs exist, and “work-release” furlough programs allow convicts to work outside the prison or make family visits during their sentences.
The prison population in the us rose dramatically in the 1980s as stronger drug laws were passed and longer sentences imposed in that area. One result has been massive overcrowding, and several states are under court order not to exceed a specified number of prisoners. In some cases this means that a current prisoner must be released, often after serving only a fraction of the sentence, to make room for a new arrival. In Oct 1994 the us prison population topped 1 million for the first time, having increased by nearly 40,000 since the end of 1993.
Development of us prisons.
Loss of liberty was seen from the beginning as a punishment in the us. Prior to the late 18th century, prisons were viewed as a temporary restriction before exile, execution, or flogging was imposed as punishment. The us Constitution prohibited “cruel or unusual punishment,” ending many of these methods of punishment; the isolated prison then came to be viewed as an institution in which discipline might be instilled and temptation removed. The system developed 1817 in Auburn, New York (to confine prisoners at night but require them to work during the day), was widely emulated because the use of prisoner labor reduced the costs, and, it was hoped, inculcated respect for authority.
The modern system pursues rehabilitation as its goal by providing work (for pay), training, education, counseling, and the prospect of early release through the parole and probation systems. However, the high recidivism rates suggest that these programs do little to counter the background causes of criminal behavior.
1. A building where persons are confined while on trial or for punishment; SYN. prison house.
2. A prisonlike situation; a place of seeming confinement; SYN. prison house.