Laogai, the abbreviation for Láodòng Gǎizào (勞動改造/劳动改造), which means "reform through labor," is a slogan of the Chinese criminal justice system and has been used to refer to the use of prison labor and prison farms in the People's Republic of China (PRC). It is estimated that in the last fifty years, more than 50 million people have been sent to laogai camps. Laogai is distinguished from laojiao, or re-education through labor, which is an administrative detention for a person who is not a criminal but has committed minor offenses, and is intended to reform offenders into law-abiding citizens. Persons detained under laojiao are detained in facilities that are separate from the general prison system of laogai. Both systems, however, involve penal labor.
In 1990 China abandoned the term laogai and started classifying the facilities as "prisons" instead. China's 1997 revised Criminal Procedure Law brought an end to open laogai policy. The existence of an extensive network of forced-labor camps producing consumer goods for export to Europe and the United States became classified.Publication of information about China's prison system by Al Jazeera English resulted in its expulsion from China on May 7, 2012.
In early 2013, Chinese state-run media Xinhua reported that the country plans to reform its "controversial re-education through labor system this year."