Prison Labor: A History And A Primer


Throughout much of history, prison inmates have been used as a source of cheap labour and work. Many cultures throughout history have taken advantage of this resource and put their prisoners – whether prisoners of war, criminals, or any other type – to work on different projects.

One of the prime examples of prison labour in history is the Soviet Union. Throughout most of its history, one of the main punishments for political dissent and other crimes of the sort was being shipped off to Siberia. There, the deportees were carted off to interment camps, infamously known as “gulags”, where they would labour away for an indefinite amount of time. In former years, similar practices were undertaken by other nations too. The penal system of Great Britain, for instance, placed a good deal of stock in their deportation and penal labour systems, which resulted in such places as Australia.

There is a variety of different types of prison labour. For example, there is punitive prison labour, which was reserved as a more serious form of punishment above and beyond mere imprisonment. Non-punitive prison labour is usually provided as a way for the inmates to put their time to good use and make a little money on the side.

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