Why are most nations opposed to prison labor? From a justice perspective, it seems that would far better repay the damage caused by whatever crimes they committed than sitting around in a prison all day. From a rehabilitation perspective, it would seem that having prisoners (who are often from poor backgrounds) learn or practice a trade of some kind, or engage in unskilled labor, might help facilitate reintegration after release. Yet I've met lots of people who equate prison labor with slavery.

I'm not sure most nations really are opposed to prison labor -- it's pretty common in most of the countries I know something about. The reason against is close to what you suggest: if the labor is mandatory, then it does seem close to slavery; and if the labor is enticed e.g. through an attractive wage, then it seems that prisoners are getting too good a deal and are not really repaying society for the damage caused by their crime. Perhaps a reasonable compromise is to make the labor voluntary and to pay for it with a low salary and/or with some special perks (such as extra time in the library or exercise room, better food, additional visits, etc.).

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