The term penitentiary refers to a specific type of prison popular in the early to mid-19th century. The word can be traced to the 15th century and was originally used to describe institutions for punishing crimes against the Roman Catholic Church. Penitentiaries in the 18th and 19th centuries were designed to reform inmates, usually through extensive religious education, sometimes accompanied by elaborate architectural designs and rigorous monitoring of inmates’ interactions. By the first quarter of the 19th century, two models of penitentiary construction ...

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