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Incarceration is the detention of a person, often in a correctional or psychiatric facility. Incarceration is often used in reference to criminal sentences imposed by a court of law. Statutes such as the United States Code (U.S.C.) and individual state criminal codes define the parameters of incarceration, such as the maximum and minimum sentences that can be imposed for particular crimes.

People can be incarcerated for various reasons, including for committing crimes or violating the terms of their probation or parole. Incarceration is often a difficult experience that can have significant impacts on a person's mental and physical health, as well as their ability to earn a living, maintain relationships, and participate in society.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment which has been interpreted by courts to require that incarceration conditions meet certain basic standards, such as providing adequate medical care, nutrition, and access to exercise and religious practices.

[Last updated in February of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]