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The term penitentiary is derived from the Latin term paenitentia, meaning repentance. A penitentiary refers to a prison or place of confinement used to hold and correct criminals who have been convicted of feloniesIn the Roman Catholic Church, a penitentiary refers to a tribunal of the Roman Curia, presided over by a cardinal, with jurisdiction over matters such as confession, penance, and dispensation.

[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team