Just cross-reffing the Macquarie Dictionary (a reference for Aust std english if you're not familiar with it) as an alternative phrasing:
- a place to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past, or out of date.
- prison, jail, or confinement.
- -phrase- in limbo, in a situation characterised by uncertainty, as when waiting for a decision to be made.
One caveat - I have not generally heard people apply the 2nd usage for prison/jail, except as a euphemism. Even then, if we're trying to talk about someone in jail, we'll find other ways to step around the words.. this is my experience however, happy for others to counter with their own exp.
Again, from my experience, I'd probably highlight that being in a state of limbo has nothing to do with the quality of the individual/item in limbo, and the 'trap' as it were, is lacking in any kind of intent to restrict you or otherwise - hence the feeling of extreme powerlessness. You can reason with someone who hates you and is stopping your progress. You can't reason with someone who simply doesn't care (although, you can try all you like..).
Most often, I've seen it used in regards to administration-related events, where you're not dealing with a person, but a corporate/government entity, and a set of rules and procedures (read: bureaucracy). Visa and immigration applications being a notable one, and the other one that comes to mind would be sending building designs to a government body for planning approval.
Immigration applications are a good example actually. In a theoretical horror situation:
- You can have good people (and bad) placing applications which are 100% compliant with the regulations.
- At some point, for some reason, it gets put into a strange
administrative state where it can't progress and can't be rejected
(for example, because migration priorities have changed, and so other
people get put higher up.. but that stream of people never
shrinks and so you can never actually progress).
- Said applicant can can make many representations to the relevant
body, can shout and scream, etc but none of these will have any
impact, since it'll take a change of either law/priorities (which is hard for a migrant from outside the country to engineer), or a change in the number of people who are applying that get pushed ahead of you.
- The applicant is now stuck in limbo, and can do naught but wait.