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Severity ScalePlay
Penitentiaries generally imply severe punishment and are often reserved for serious offenses. SlideHe was incarcerated in a penitentiary for his role in the armed robbery.
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Cultural DepictionsPlay
Penitentiaries are portrayed in films and books as places with strict discipline and tough conditions. SlideThe movie shows life inside a penitentiary as bleak and harsh.
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Historical UsagePlay
Historically, 'penitentiary' pointed to where inmates repented, hence its religious undertones. SlideThe old penitentiary was once a place where prisoners were encouraged to repent.