PDA

View Full Version : Prison, Jail, Incarcerated



Tish Davidson
03-21-2006, 11:34 AM
In an article in today's New York Times, the author wrote, "In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated."

I have two questions about this sentence.

1. Are prison and jail different and does incarceration include confinement in anything other than a prison or jail?

2. Why is there an apostrophe in 20's? I know the correct form for decades is 1990s, 2000s, etc. (no apostrophe). Why is it different with decades denoting age?

triceretops
03-21-2006, 11:44 AM
Jail is a term generally refering to a room or facility in a city or county installation that is usually meant for temporary confinement. A State or Federal Prison is where someone goes to serve out a sentence. Incarceration means to be confined--that can be in a small local jail or in a large prison facility.

Tri

kristie911
03-21-2006, 12:02 PM
I don't know about your second question but Tri was right on about the first. I just wanted to add that when I read it, I'm assumed they are using the word 'incarcerated' to mean jail or prison just like in the preceding sentence but didn't want to repeat themselves. It may have been less confusing if they had worded it something like this:

"In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, it was 21 percent."

That way you'd understand they're using the same parameters for the percentage and just showing that it went up.

reph
03-21-2006, 01:23 PM
The apostrophe in "20's" should be deleted. The plural of 20 is 20s. For decades of a person's age, I prefer "twenties," but newspapers do have this habit of trying to save space.

If they'd rewritten as kristie911 suggested, they could have saved enough space for a flock of apostrophes.

pianoman5
03-21-2006, 03:07 PM
... they could have saved enough space for a flock of apostrophes.

Or perhaps a mob of apostrophes? A host, a punctuation or a colonnade of apostrophes?

What might be our favoured collective noun for this sorely abused little squiggle?

arrowqueen
03-22-2006, 12:50 AM
A confusion of apostrophes.

reph
03-22-2006, 04:12 AM
"A confusion" funny, that occurred to me, too.

A clutter. A forest. A stand of apostrophes, like a stand of trees. A grove.

Jamesaritchie
03-22-2006, 10:38 AM
In an article in today's New York Times, the author wrote, "In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated."

I have two questions about this sentence.

1. Are prison and jail different and does incarceration include confinement in anything other than a prison or jail?

2. Why is there an apostrophe in 20's? I know the correct form for decades is 1990s, 2000s, etc. (no apostrophe). Why is it different with decades denoting age?

In this instance, I don't think "incarceration" necessarily means anything other than jail or prison, but the last thing you'd want to do is write "jail or prison" again. The word "incarceration" saves you from this. You could rewrite it as kristie911 suggests, or leave it as it is. Just my style, but I greatly prefer it in the orignal. In such instances, I think "it was" is weak writing.

As for the apostrophe in "20's," for dates, as in "the 1920's," "20's" has been acceptable for as long as I've been alive, though many purists prefer it without the apostrophe. I don't care which is used, but tend to prefer using the apostrophe. It's a case of that's how I was first taught, and it just looks better to my eye.

For ages, however, both 20's and 20s are both dead wrong, in my opinion. It should always be "twenties," and I don't care how much space it takes. Four more spaces does not use enough space to matter, and bad is bad. This is bad, no matter how large the newspaper is.

Bufty
03-22-2006, 08:36 PM
A plague of apostrophes?

rekirts
03-22-2006, 09:01 PM
A murder of apostrophes?

Thanks for clarifying that 1920's etc. business James. I was pretty sure I learned it that way, too, and then was confused when I heard it was wrong.

kristie911
03-23-2006, 12:12 AM
In such instances, I think "it was" is weak writing.



<sigh> And here I was just trying to make a point...

pprioli
03-23-2006, 06:01 PM
Prison/jail and incarceration were used for word variety, though I have no idea why the author felt it necessary to say "prison or jail."

As for the apostrophe in the date, it is now and always has been perfectly acceptable. Neither way is right or wrong, it's simply a stylistic preference, and the only "wrong" thing would be to use either one inconsistently. I believe it comes from British English roots, just like a comma outside of the last quote mark does. I could be wrong about that, though.

kristie911
03-23-2006, 10:32 PM
Prison/jail and incarceration were used for word variety, though I have no idea why the author felt it necessary to say "prison or jail."


Because prison and jail are two different things.