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Reeducation through labor

Reeducation through labor or laojiao is a system of administrative detentions in China which is generally used to detain persons for minor crimes such as petty theft, prostitution, and drug use. It is distinct from laogai or reform through labor which denotes the Chinese prison system as a whole. Persons detained under laojiao are detained in facilities which are separate from the general prison system.

It has been criticized by human rights groups as not offering procedural guarantees for the accused and for being used to detain political dissidents[?], and its abolition has been the focus of a number of human rights activists.

However, it has been argued that calls for abolition of reeducation through labor, while well intended, are misguided. It has been pointed out that the penalties in reeducation through labor are considerably less harsh than the penalities through the criminal justice system and that the while the criminal system has more formal procedural guarantees these are not of much use to the accused in practice. In addition, it has been noted that political dissidents make up only 1 to 2 percent of reeducation through labor cases and even in these cases, the sentences mete out (typically one to two years) are considerably less harsh than dissidents who are convicted under the regular criminal justice system (typically ten years or more). Furthermore, detention under laojiao does not carry the social stigma that a criminal conviction does.

Even the use of special detainment facilities for reeducation though labor has its defenders. It has been pointed out that conditions in laojiao camps are much better than regular prisons and that mixing persons guilty of minor crimes with hardened criminals in the regular prison population would hardly been good for society or for the detainees themselves.

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