correctional facility
Posted: 21 October 2016 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  1428
Joined  2007-04-28

There’s an article in the Grauniad about America’s most violent prison, The Holman Correctional Facility. The writer also uses penitentiary and inmate (though not exclusively). Did these all start as euphemisms? Penitent in penitentiary suggests Puritan stuff on either side of the Atlantic.

[ Edited: 21 October 2016 10:02 AM by venomousbede ]
Posted: 21 October 2016 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  1638
Joined  2007-03-21

Originally it was the officer in a Roman Catholic diocese that could act in the place of the bishop. M-W says the origin is in the 15th C.

a :  an officer in some Roman Catholic dioceses vested with power from the bishop to deal with cases of a nature normally handled only by the bishop
b capitalized :  a cardinal presiding over a tribunal of the Roman curia concerned with dispensations and indulgences

The cases these Penitentiaries were assigned often had to do with penance or absolution. It also, from the beginninig, could be a place where one served out ecclesiastical punishment, or where they were forced to “do penance.”

So, not Pilgrims or Puritans. But Roman Catholic term of ecclesiastic law from Middle French.

Back in the day, wayward youth were put into a “Reform School” but I more frequently hear it as Juvenile Detention Center or affectionately “Juvy”.

Posted: 21 October 2016 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  3522
Joined  2007-01-31

In addition to being a church official, a penitentiary was “a place of penitential discipline or punishment for ecclesiastical offences.” The OED gives this a separate entry from that for the official, and the first citation for this sense is given as “a[nte]1500(▸?1421)” where “▸ indicates date of composition for this text (as opposed to date of documentary evidence).”

A later sense was “a refuge for ‘fallen women’; a home for reformed prostitutes, unmarried mothers, etc. Now hist.” Apparently that sense was used in the UK, since two of the citations (including the first) refer to the London Female Penitentiary.  An 1891 newspaper citation reads: “The change of title..from the ‘London Female Penitentiary Society’ to the ‘London Female Guardian Society’ has been universally approved of… When the society was founded eighty-four years ago the term ‘Penitentiary’ was well understood to mean a voluntary asylum for the reception of those resolving on amendment of life.”

The American usage of the word as a place of incarceration of either sex for a variety of crimes seems to have arisen at about the same time as the previous sense (early 19th cent.), but the OED notes “In early use applied. spec. to facilities having some reformatory or correctional purpose, but now usually taken to be synonymous with ‘prison’.”

“House of correction”, btw, goes back to the 16th century.

[ Edited: 21 October 2016 12:21 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Posted: 21 October 2016 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  829
Joined  2013-10-14

Originally, inmate was a person who resided in a house or any dwelling with others, but it has become an archaic usage. Today, it exclusively refers to prisoners or to people confined to a hospital. However, I’ve never heard of patients referred to as inmates.

Posted: 21 October 2016 02:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Total Posts:  6505
Joined  2007-01-03

I’ve certainly heard of mental patients being referred to as inmates, but never those confined to hospitals for other reasons. It’s probably because a sizeable percentage of mental patients are involuntarily committed to the institution. That’s not true of other hospitals.

Also, the OED entry for inmate is hopelessly out of date. It doesn’t even include the prison sense.

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