NGO, refugee, and press reports indicated that there were several types of prisons, detention centers, and camps, including forced labor camps and separate camps for political prisoners. NGO reports documented six types of detention facilities: kwan-li-so, political penal-labor camps; kyo-hwa-so, correctional or reeducation centers; kyo-yang-so, labor reform centers; jip-kyul-so, collection centers for low-level criminals; ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae, labor training centers; and ku-ryu-jang or ka-mok, interrogation facilities or jails. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) administered Kwan-li-so penal-labor camps; either the MSS or the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) administered the other detention centers.
Reports indicated there were between 5,000 and 50,000 prisoners per kwan-li-so. Defectors claimed the kwan-li-so camps contained unmarked graves, barracks, worksites, and other prison facilities. NGOs reported that five kwan-li-so facilities remained in operation, including Kaecheon (Camp 14) in South Pyongan Province with an estimated 50,000 inmates, Yodok (Camp 15) in South Hamkyung Province with an estimated 10,500 inmates, Hwasung (Camp 16) with an estimated 15,000 inmates, Chongjin (Camp 25) with an estimated 5,000 inmates, and Hoiryeong (Camp 22) in North Hamkyung Province with an estimated 10,000 inmates.
Based on satellite imagery and defector testimony, observers estimated Camp 22 to be 31 miles long and 25 miles wide. In June an NGO reported that Camp 22 was dismantled and prisoners relocated to other facilities. However, the HRNK released a report in October that used satellite imagery to demonstrate that Camp 22 remained operational. The HRNK report could not determine whether the camp remained a detention facility or if it had been repurposed as another type of work facility.
In 2011 NGOs and the press reported that police began to dismantle in 2006 a sixth facility, Bukchang (Camp 18) in South Pyongan Province, and it was unclear if the camp remained in operation.
Total control zones reportedly existed in kwan-li-so political penal-labor camps, where incarceration is for life, and “re-revolutionizing zones” from which prisoners may be released. Hidden Gulag reported that there had been no known releases from Yodok since 2009.
Reports indicated that those sentenced to prison for nonpolitical crimes were typically sent to reeducation prisons where prisoners were subjected to intense forced labor. Those who were considered hostile to the government or who committed political crimes reportedly were sentenced to indefinite terms in political prison camps. In many cases family members were also detained if one member was accused or arrested. The government continued to deny the existence of political prison camps.
Reports indicated that conditions in the prison camp and detention system were harsh and life threatening and systematic and severe human rights abuses occurred. Many prisoners in political prison camps and the detention system were not expected to survive. Detainees and prisoners consistently reported violence and torture. Defectors described witnessing public executions in political prison camps. According to defectors in some places of detention, prisoners received little or no food and were denied medical care. Sanitation was poor, and former labor camp inmates reported they had no changes of clothing during their incarceration and were rarely able to bathe or wash their clothing.
The ROK and international press reported that kyo-hwa-so, or labor rehabilitation camps, hold populations of up to thousands of political prisoners, economic criminals, and ordinary criminals
Physical Conditions: Estimates of the total number of prisoners and detainees in the prison and detention system ranged between 100,000 and 200,000. In July 2011 the NKDB reported that 138,000 persons were being held in DPRK detention centers, with between 130,500 and 131,000 held in five active political prison camps, possibly 200 to 300 in the Bukchang facility, and the rest dispersed in more than 182 other locations. NGO and press reports estimated that there were between 182 and 490 detention facilities in the country.
Information on the number of women and juvenile prisoners was not available. Anecdotal reports from the NKDB indicated that in some prisons women were housed in separate units from men and were often subjected to sexual abuse. One NGO reported that political prisoners sent to punishment facilities were subjected to torture without consideration of their gender.
NGOs reported that women made up the majority of prisoners in ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae; the majority of prisoners in these facilities were repatriated from China.
Under the criminal procedure law, a criminal case is dismissed in the case of a crime committed by a person under 14 years of age, and under article 62 public education is applied in case of a crime committed by a person above 14 and under 17 years of age. However, little information was available regarding how this law was observed in practice. Authorities often detained juveniles along with their families and subjected them to torture and abuse in detention facilities.
Administration: No information was available indicating whether prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors. In past years defectors reported that Christian inmates were subjected to harsher punishment if their faith was made public, but no information was available regarding religious observance. No information was available on whether prisoners or detainees could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship or request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. No information on recordkeeping processes or alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders was publicly available.
Monitoring: There was no publicly available information on whether the government investigated or monitored prison and detention conditions. The UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DPRK was not allowed to access conditions inside the country independently.
The government did not permit other human rights monitors to inspect prisons and detention facilities.