Chinese Prisoners Make Money In World of Warcraft
In an interesting twist on the idea of putting prisoners to work, a former prisoner at a labor camp in China has revealed that he and other prisoners were forced to play online games that would generate real money for prison guards. The former prisoner described to The Guardian the details of standard physical labor followed by nights in front of the computer. Prisoners would gather online currency in games like World of Warcraft and Everquest which could then be sold to other gamers for real cash (upwards of $925 per day).
I want to make it clear that I do not agree with the treatment of the prisoners, as the article documents the physical punishment that would be doled out if either labor task did not meet quota. Strictly on the topic of inmates making themselves useful, however, it is rather ingenious (although in this case it was a scheme cooked up by the guards and not actually sanctioned by the Chinese government). These guards found a way to make a captive audience productive.
The issue of inmate service has recently been raised by Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak, as reported by the National Post, who states:
"We're not asking convicted prisoners to do anything more than what hard-working Ontario families do every day: work"
The usual debate issues have come along with it, including cost vs. benefit and the possibility of taking jobs away from the general public. While online "gold farming" is likely not the answer, it does highlight the fact that in the modern digital age there may be some creative solutions to the question of how inmates can be of benefit to society, instead of a drain on it.
Many people are able to effectively perform large parts of their jobs from home via cyber-commuting, so perhaps there is a way to avoid the costs and dangers of taking prisoners out of the prison by taking advantage of the connected world we live in. Inmates could test new government websites and applications. Get enough inmates connected at the same time and you could perform live stress testing on a system. Training on computer repair could be provided, creating an inmate computer support force that also provides useful skills for when they are released.Continued on the next page