A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons. Conditions at labor camps vary widely depending on the operators.
Registration of Jews by Nazis for forced labor, 1941
During World War II the Nazis operated several categories of Arbeitslager (Labor Camps) for different categories of inmates. The largest number of them held Jewish civilians forcibly abducted in the occupied countries (see Łapanka) to provide labor in the German war industry, repair bombed railroads and bridges or work on farms. By 1944, 19.9% of all workers were foreigners, either civilians or prisoners of war.8
During the early 20th century, the Empire of Japan used the forced labor of millions of civilians from conquered countries and prisoners of war, especially during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, on projects such as the Death Railway. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a direct result of the overwork, malnutrition, preventable disease and violence which were commonplace on these projects.
North Korea is known to operate six camps with prison-labor colonies in remote mountain valleys. The total number of prisoners in the Kwan-li-so is 150,000 – 200,000. Once condemned as political criminal in North Korea, a defendant and his family are incarcerated for lifetime in one of the camps without trial and cut off from all outside contact.9
The Soviet Union took over the already extensive katorga system and expanded it immensely, eventually organizing the Gulag to run the camps. In 1954, a year after Stalin's death, the new Soviet government of Nikita Khrushchev began to release political prisoners and close down the camps. By the end of the 1950s, virtually all "corrective labor camps" were reorganized, mostly into the system of corrective labor colonies. Officially, the Gulag was terminated by the MVD order 20 of January 25, 1960.10
During the period of Stalinism, the Gulag labor camps in the Soviet Union were officially called "Corrective labor camps." The term "labor colony"; more exactly, "Corrective labor colony", (Russian: исправительно-трудовая колония, abbr. ИТК), was also in use, most notably the ones for underaged (16 years or younger) convicts and captured besprizorniki (street children, literally, "children without family care"). After the reformation of the camps into the Gulag, the term "corrective labor colony" essentially encompassed labor campscitation needed.
In 2005, The United States Army declassified a document that "provides guidance on establishing prison camps on [US] Army installations." 11
United States prisons operate like labor camps, according to an article by a professor of journalism from California State University.citation needed Operating like the labor camps of communist China, prisons in at least two states, California and Oregon, are doing "exactly what the U.S. has been lambasting China for", the professor's article says.citation needed It discusses the similarities in the two countries' prison labor systems. U.S. prison work is not volunteer work since inmates get time deducted off their sentences for working in the prison: "If prisoners don't work, they serve longer sentences, lose privileges, and risk solitary confinement." The United States prison system is being called "a new form of inhumane exploitation."12