Legal Dictionary

prison cell

Legal Definition of prison cell

See also

Definition of prison cell


prison cell (plural prison cells)

  1. The room to which a prisoner is confined in a prison.


  • detention cell

Further reading

The term prison cell or holding cell refers to the small room where detained prisoner in a prison, or police station lives.

Prison cells are generally small, with plastic or brick walls and one door. Many modern prison cells are pre-cast. In the case of British Police stations and Prison Service cells, the doors have a sliding hatch which allows the prisoner to be observed. The door locks securely from the outside of the cell, preventing escape. Furnishings and fixtures inside the cell are typically designed so that it can not be broken.

This is accomplished by anchoring furniture to the walls or floor, as well as using stainless steel lavatories and commodes. This aids in preventing vandalism or the making of weapons.

There are a vast number of prison and prison cell configurations, from simple police station holding cells to massive cell blocks in Supermax facilities. In any case, detainees are monitored in an effort to prevent violent or criminal acts from being carried out. This can include guards, CCTVs or restraints.

When being detained in any prison cell, whether it be a local (Police Station), regional (County Jail) or national (Federal Prison) a detainee must abide by the rules set forth. Failure to adhere to prison protocol results in various penalties. On arrival at any prison level the detainee will have all personal effects and clothing confiscated and logged into storage. This aids in controlling the prison population as well as preventing contraband, such as weapons, drugs or cash, from entering the prison.

In the United Kingdom cells in a police station are the responsibility of the Custody Sergeant, who is also responsible for logging the detainees and allocating him or her an available cell. Custody Sergeants also ensure cells are clean and as germ-free as possible, in accordance with the Human Rights Act.

In India the term lock-up is used for a holding cell in a police station. Lock up is the place to hold the arrested people on a temporary basis before they are produced in front of a magistrate. The lock ups generally have a barred iron door which can be locked from the out-side. Prison cells are generally not referred to as lock ups.

In the British judicial system, Her Majesty's Prison Service is responsible for county prisons. This is where offenders go after they have been sentenced in a court of law.

The practice of assigning only one inmate to each cell in a prison is called single-celling.


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1.     lex situs
2.     lex causae
3.     lex loci delicti commissi
4.     lex loci celebrationis
5.     lex domicilii
6.     Clayton's Case
7.     AORO
8.     Miranda warning
9.     lex patriae
10.     defence of property