In the 20th century, a new category of labor camps developed for the imprisonment of millions of people who were not criminals per se, but political opponents (real or imagined) and various so-called undesirables under communist and fascist regimes. Some of those camps were dubbed "reeducation facilities" for political coercion, but most others served as backbones of industry and agriculture for the benefit of the state, especially in times of war.
Also between 1950 and 1954 many men were considered "politically unreliable" for compulsory military service, and were conscripted to labour battalions (Czech: Pomocné technické prapory (PTP)) instead.
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.
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 to 200,000. Once condemned as a political criminal in North Korea, the defendant and his family are incarcerated for life in one of the camps without trial and cut off from all outside contact.
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.
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 camps.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China, which closed on December 28, 2013, passed a decision on abolishing the legal provisions on reeducation through labor. However, penal labor allegedly continues to exist in Xinjiang re-education camps according to Radio Free Asia.
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 a political criminal in North Korea, the defendant and his family are incarcerated for lifetime in one of the camps without trial, and are cut off from all outside contact.
Gibson, Mary; Poerio, Ilaria (2018). "Modern Europe, 1750-1950". In Anderson, Clare (ed.). A Global History of Convicts and Penal Colonies. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN9781350000698. Retrieved 2019-10-07. A second early modern form of punishment, the galleys, constituted a more direct precedent to the earliest hard labour camps. [...] Galley rowing offered no promise of rehabilitation and, in fact, often led to disease and death. However, it shared with the prison workhouses of northern Europe a new aspiration to integrate hard labour into punishment for the eeconomic benefit of the state.
^Magocsi, Paul Robert (1996). A History of Ukraine: The Land and Its Peoples (2 ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press (published 2010). p. 185. ISBN9781442698796. Retrieved 2019-10-07. And what happened to the captives from Ukraine [...]? The slaves functioned at all levels of Ottoman society [...]. At the lowest end of the social scale were galley slaves conscripted into the imperial naval fleet and field hands who labored on Ottoman landed estates.
van Ruymbeke, Bertrand (2005). "'A Dominion of True Believers Not a Republic for Heretics': French Colonial Religious Policy and the Settlement of Early louisiana, 1699-1730". In Bond, Bradley G. (ed.). French Colonial Louisiana and the Atlantic World. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 90. ISBN9780807130353. Retrieved 2019-10-07. Andre Zysberg's study shows that [...] nearly 1,500 Huguenots were sentenced to the galleys between 1680 and 1716 [...].
^John Dietrich, The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (2002) ISBN1-892941-90-2