Penitentiary Law and Legal Definition

A penitentiary is an institution that houses criminals convicted of serious crimes. Penitentiaries exist on the state and federal levels. They are also called prisons.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons aims to ensure the physical safety of all inmates through a controlled environment which meets each inmate’s need for security through the elimination of violence, predatory behavior, gang activity, drug use, and inmate weapons. Through the provision of health care, mental, spiritual, educational, vocational and work programs, inmates are prepared for a productive and crime free return to society. Inmates are classified into these different facilities based on the inmate's needs and the custody (security risk) of the inmate.