Imprisonment (from imprison Old French, French emprisonner, from en in + prison prison, from Latin prensio, arrest, from prehendere, prendere, to seize) in law is the state of being incarcerated or confined in an institutional setting such as a prison after violating the law. Any "street time" (i.e., probation, parole, or supervised release) that was ordered by the court as part of the defendant's sentence or punishment does not count as imprisonment.
Imprisonment in other contexts is the restraint of a person's liberty, for any cause whatsoever, whether by authority of the government, or by a person acting without such authority. In the latter case it is "false imprisonment". Imprisonment does not necessarily imply a place of confinement, with bolts and bars, but may be exercised by any use or display of force, lawfully or unlawfully, wherever displayed, even in the open street. People become prisoners, wherever they may be, by the mere word or touch of a duly authorized officer directed to that end.
England and Wales
Imprisonment is no other thing than the restraint of a man's liberty, whether it be in the open field, or in the stocks, or in the cage in the streets or in a man's own house, as well as in the common gaols; and in all the places the party so restrained is said to be a prisoner so long as he hath not his liberty freely to go at all times to all places whither he will without bail or mainprise or otherwise.
This passage was approved by Atkin and Duke LJJ in Meering v Grahame White Aviation Co. It is not imprisonment to prevent a person from proceeding along a particular way if it is possible for him to reach his intended destination by another route. Imprisonment without lawful cause is a tort called false imprisonment. Imprisonment is a type of sentence.
- United States v. Pray, 373 F.3d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 2004) ("In ordinary usage, 'imprisonment' generally means physical confinement."); Commonwealth v. Conahan, 589 A.2d 1107, 1110 (Pa. 1991) ("Conahan voluntarily committed himself to inpatient custodial alcohol rehabilitation, which he successfully completed after devoting ninety-five continuous days towards overcoming his disease. We find that his successful completion of this custodial inpatient rehabilitation, which took place in three hospitals, falls within the common meaning of 'imprisonment'. . . .")
- "Imprisonment". The New International Encyclopedia. Second Edition. Dodd, Mead and Company. New York. 1915. Volume XII. Page 35.
- United States v. Parsons, No. 15-2055, at p.10 (3d Cir. Nov. 10, 2016) (unpublished); United States v. Rodriguez-Bernal, 783 F.3d 1002, 1006 (5th Cir. 2015); 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(48)(B); Matter of Cota, 23 I&N Dec. 849, 852 (BIA 2005); United States v. Pettus, 303 F.3d 480 (2d Cir. 2002) (regarding "street time"); Young v. Pa. Board of Probation and Parole, No. 361 C.D. 2016 (Commonwealth Court of Pa. June 12, 2018) (regarding "street time"); United States v. Pray, 373 F.3d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 2004) ("We hold that the term 'imprisonment' . . . does not include parole. . . . A person who is on parole, although subject to some restraints on liberty, is not 'imprisoned' in the sense in which the term is usually used. For example, if a parolee were informed at the end of a parole revocation hearing that the outcome was 'imprisonment,' the parolee would not think that this meant that he was going to be returned to parole.") (citations omitted); Young v. Pa. Board of Probation and Parole, 409 A.2d 843, 846-47 (Pa. 1979) ("To attempt to equate a parole status with that of custody is to ignore reality."); accord Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 482 (1972).
- John Rastell. Termes de la Ley. 1636. Page 202. Digital copy from Google Books.
- Meering v Grahame White Aviation Co (1919) 122 LT 44, [1918-19] All ER Rep 1490 at 1502 and 1503 and 1507. (The passages in question are set out in R v Sayle, 29 September 2008, Court of General Gaol Delivery, Isle of Man.
- Bird v Jones (1845) 7 QB 742, (1845) 115 ER 668, (1845) 15 LJQB 82, (1845) 9 Jur 870, (1845) 10 JP 4, (1845) 5 LT (OS) 406
- Clerk and Lindsell on Torts. Sweet and Maxwell. Sixteenth Edition. 1989. Paragraph 17-15 at page 972.
- Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice. 1999. Chapter 5. Section II. "Sentences of Imprisonment".
The dictionary definition of imprisonment at Wiktionary