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A penitentiary is a place where one is detained or incarcerated for a crime. In the United States, penitentiaries are specifically operated by state or federal governments. In British English jail is used instead.
Ex: Before he was released from jail, Joseph had written over 450 pages of text for his memoir that was due to be published later that year.
Ex: Though the area is quite rural, there are several hotels and restaurants in close proximity to the federal penitentiary. These establishments provide service for people visiting their incarcerated loved ones.
The word penitent means in a state of being sorry for something, or repenting of having done something. If you are penitent, it means you feel regret about what you have done, as in sins or errors.
Ex: The fellow certainly appeared penitent, but the town officials doubted his outward show of emotion, having seen this response from the local vagrant in the past.
Ex: The other women found it impossible not to forgive their penitent friend, so sincere was her apology to the others in the group.


A cell is a small room associated with enclosure or confinement. Cells are normally found in prisons and other locations involved in the detaining of criminals.
Ex: Other than the precious hours he spent outside in mandatory exercise, the criminal was confined to his small cell to await the end of his prison sentence.
Ex: After being found guilty by the jury, the convict was shown to the cell which he would occupy for the remainder of the next five years.
A holding cell is a room used in transition between events in a penal system. Holding cells are used in criminal justice atmospheres as accused or convicted criminals transition to other facilities or courtrooms.
Ex: After the trial, the criminal was escorted by an armed guard to a holding cell to await transport to the state prison.
Ex: The holding cell was small and featureless, clearly not meant for prolonged stay, but for awaiting transition to a larger one with more security.
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