Abuse of prison labour

Other Names:
Civilian labour camps
Re-education camps
Education through labour
Political concentration camps

Chinese labour camps, so-called "re-education through labour", is a legal practice dating from 1957 and subsequently endorsed in 1982, which is an administrative measure of compulsory educative reform which China had adopted to discourage and reduce crime and safeguard public law and order. Whilst the Chinese government emphasizes that the rights provided for under the Constitution and laws are guaranteed for the inmates in re-education facilities, it is believed that this system is widely abused to detain political prisoners without charges. The 20 million prisoners in China in 1990 produced a total output of goods and services so large that it is routinely included in the country's GNP statistics. Prisoners can also be leased as labour to any Western company wishing to open a factory in China.

In 1866, one year after the 13 Amendment was ratified (the amendment that ended slavery in the USA), several southern States began to lease out convicts for labor (peonage). This made the business of arresting Blacks very lucrative, which is why hundreds of White men were hired by these States as police officers. Their primary responsibility was to search out and arrest Blacks who were in violation of Black Codes. Once arrested, these men, women and children would be leased to plantations where they would harvest cotton, tobacco, sugar cane. Or they would be leased to work at coal mines, or railroad companies. The owners of these businesses would pay the state for every prisoner who worked for them under the category of prison labor.

The 13th Amendment declared that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." (Ratified in 1865).  Lawmakers used this phrase to make petty offenses crimes. It is believed that after the passing of the 13th Amendment, more than 800,000 Blacks were part of the system of peonage, or re-enslavement through the prison system. Peonage didn’t end until after World War II began, around 1940.

Narrower Problems:
Export of prison-made products
Using prison labour
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
12.03.2022 – 02:27 CET