Definition of jail noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



(also British English, old-fashioned gaol) noun
BrE BrE//dʒeɪl//
; NAmE NAmE//dʒeɪl//
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[uncountable, countable] a prison She spent a year in jail. He has been released from jail. a ten-year jail sentence Britain’s overcrowded jails CollocationsCriminal justiceBreaking the law break/​violate/​obey/​uphold the law be investigated/​arrested/​tried for a crime/​a robbery/​fraud be arrested/ (especially North American English) indicted/​convicted on charges of rape/​fraud/(especially US English) felony charges be arrested on suspicion of arson/​robbery/​shoplifting be accused of/​be charged with murder/(especially North American English) homicide/​four counts of fraud face two charges of indecent assault admit your guilt/​liability/​responsibility (for something) deny the allegations/​claims/​charges confess to a crime grant/​be refused/​be released on/​skip/​jump bailThe legal process stand/​await/​bring somebody to/​come to/​be on trial take somebody to/​come to/​settle something out of court face/​avoid/​escape prosecution seek/​retain/​have the right to/​be denied access to legal counsel hold/​conduct/​attend/​adjourn a hearing/​trial sit on/​influence/​persuade/​convince the jury sit/​stand/​appear/​be put/​place somebody in the dock plead guilty/​not guilty to a crime be called to/​enter (British English) the witness box take/​put somebody on the stand/(North American English) the witness stand call/​subpoena/​question/​cross-examine a witness give/​hear the evidence against/​on behalf of somebody raise/​withdraw/​overrule an objection reach a unanimous/​majority verdict return/​deliver/​record a verdict of not guilty/​unlawful killing/​accidental death convict/​acquit the defendant of the crime secure a conviction/​your acquittal lodge/​file an appeal appeal (against)/challenge/​uphold/​overturn a conviction/​verdictSentencing and punishment pass sentence on somebody carry/​face/​serve a seven-year/​life sentence receive/​be given the death penalty be sentenced to ten years (in prison/​jail) carry/​impose/​pay a fine (of $3 000)/a penalty (of 14 years imprisonment) be imprisoned/​jailed for drug possession/​fraud/​murder do/​serve time/​ten years be sent to/​put somebody in/​be released from jail/​prison be/​put somebody/​spend X years on death row be granted/​be denied/​break (your) parole Grammar Pointschool When a school is being referred to as an institution, you do not need to use the:When do the children finish school? When you are talking about a particular building, the is used:I’ll meet you outside the school. Prison, jail, court, and church work in the same way:Her husband spent three years in prison. CultureprisonsBritain's system of justice relies heavily on imprisonment as a form of punishment. Until the late 18th century conditions in prisons such as Newgate were dirty and violent. In the 19th century conditions improved, thanks to the work of reformers like Elizabeth Fry. New prisons were built, in which most prisoners had their own cell (= small room) facing into a large central area. Many of these prisons, such as Pentonville and Strangeways, still exist today, although Strangeways had to be rebuilt after most of the building was destroyed in riots in the 1990s.The type of prison in which criminals serve their sentence depends on their category. Category A prisoners are considered dangerous and are held in high-security closed prisons. Prisoners may be kept in solitary confinement (= alone and without contact with other prisoners) if they are likely to harm others or to be harmed by them. Category B and C prisoners are also held in closed prisons. Category D prisoners are trusted not to escape and are sent to low-security open prisons. Prisoners on remand (= waiting for their trial) are held in remand centres, but problems of overcrowding have resulted in many of them being kept in prisons or police stations. Young people aged 15–20 are normally sent to young offender institution s, sometimes called detention centres or youth custody centres. These have replaced the old Borstals. However, if space is not available young people are sometimes sent to adult prisons. A prison is run by a governor who is responsible to the the Ministry of Justice, and the prisoners are guarded by warders. There are also some private prisons in Britain that are managed by private companies. They must follow rules that are set by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons.There is not enough space available in prisons for the number of people being given custodial sentences (= being sent to prison). In the 1990s there were riots (= violent protests) at several prisons because of poor conditions. Cells intended for one person often contain two or three. Despite this, some people think life in Britain's prisons is not hard enough. Some prisons are described as ‘universities of crime’, where prisoners gain new skills in breaking the law and have access to drugs.There are many British slang expressions connected with prison. To do time is to serve a prison sentence and to have been inside means to have been in prison. Time spent in prison is porridge. Prison itself is the nick, the slammer or choky, warders are screws, and the prisoners are lags.In the US the federal (= national) and state governments have prisons, sometimes called penitentiaries or correctional facilities. Counties and cities have jails. Federal prisons are classified as minimum, low, medium or high security. All inmates (= prisoners) who can work must do so. People are sent to a prison if their sentence is for several years. If the sentence is a year or less they are sent to jail. Some prisoners on work release are allowed to leave jail during the day to go to a job. Prisoners often spend the last few months of their sentence in a halfway house where they are helped to prepare for life outside prison.In the US people who are awaiting trial often do not go to prison but instead make bail (= pay money to the court) as a guarantee that they will return for the trial. People sent to prison as punishment rarely serve their full sentence but after some time are released on parole, which means they must report regularly to a government official. It is possible that two people who have committed the same crime may receive different punishments. To stop this happening some states have introduced mandatory sentencing, which means that the punishment for a crime is fixed by law, not decided by a judge. See related entries: Prison Word OriginMiddle English: based on Latin cavea. The word came into English in two forms, jaiole from Old French and gayole from Anglo-Norman French gaole (surviving in the spelling gaol), originally pronounced with a hard g, as in goat.Extra examples He’s gone to jail for fraud. His lawyer worked hard to keep him out of jail. How long has she been in jail? She avoided jail by pleading insanity. She could be out of jail in two years. There was a fire in the jail last night. riots at Strangeways jail He was held overnight at the county jail. He will be freed from jail automatically after serving half the term. Woman faces jail for animal cruelty.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: jail

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