Pax Drones are people from Packilvania who were subjected to the nation's Drone Policy (Debt Relief One). The policy was abolished in 2022. They are distinct from Drones in Paxism which are the spirits of the dead which have assimilated with Noi.
The Drone Policy effectively functioned as a form of a debtors' prison, under which destitute individuals unable to pay a court-ordered judgement - typically to private lending institutions - were incarcerated and subjected to compulsory work regimens, typically in harsh conditions. The product of their labor was used to offset both the costs of their imprisonment and their accrued debt, with some periods of incarceration ranging as high as 21 years. Typically held in large penal colonies in the Packilvanian interior, Pax Drones were used on farms, factories, and construction sites. There have also been instances of Pax Drones being used on Packilvanian-funded projects in foreign countries.
Forced labor has had a consistent and widespread presence throughout the history of the Packilvanian penal system. Convict labor has been used extensively on infrastructure projects throughout the vast nation, and the Demirite dynasty established the first organized penal colonies in the country. These outposts were typically located in remote regions of the Packilvanian interior, and were effectively used to both isolate prisoner populations from the rest of society while also utilizing them to develop and settle sparsely populated areas.
The usage of penal colonies expanded rapidly after the fall of the Demirite dynasty and the rise of the Packilvanian Communist Party, which increasingly subjected both ordinary criminals and political prisoners to the system. The colonies were expected to not only rehabilitate through the supposed joys of socialist labor, but to also support the Communist Party's new economic policies. The Party sought to restructure the Packilvanian economy as an autarky centered around collective farms and mass industrialization. The loss of foreign trade required that entire industries and supply chains now had to be brought onshore, often in a highly inefficient manner. The Party viewed prison populations as a pool of labor that could effectively be forced into low- and semi-skilled positions that now needed to be filled. The penal colonies, once an artifact of the Packilvanian frontier, would now become increasingly integrated into the nation's overall economic structure.
Pax Drones as an official policy were established in 1983 after the Second Packilvanian Civil War by the victorious Bedonite dynasty. The transition away from the communist economic model had brought with it the resurgence of private lending. Access to credit was vital for not only newly privatized former-state entities but also for a recently reestablished and rapidly developing class of small business owners and farmers.
The exact reasoning behind the Pax Drone policy and its formulation remains hazy and obscured by both general disorganization in the post-war government, and the opaque nature of Packilvanian decisionmaking. The policy has in part been attributed to a desire by the government to provide a sense of security for lenders, who were already operating in a deeply uncertain environment. It was in the government's interest to foster economic activity and thus access to credit. Strong political pressures that had emerged as a backlash against communism limited the degree to which state institutions were allowed to meddle in economic matters, and this precluded any efforts to provide serious state financing or support for businesses, or forms of debt relief or bailouts that might allow investors and creditors to easily recoup losses from failed ventures. Additionally, bankruptcy was itself viewed as a moral failing and a betrayal of trust, and it was feared that the institution of bankruptcy laws similar to those used elsewhere around the world might only add to the unease of creditors.
Under the Pax Drone system, Packilvanian citizens who were unable to make court ordered payments - Either to creditors or in the form of government fines - would be subjected to imprisonment and forced labor. The profits made would then flow through to the government which would use them to offset the debts in question. Thus, the policy would in theory provide a means of assurance to creditors while also pushing perceived layabouts into the labor force for the betterment of both themselves and the nation as a whole. Indeed, one of the largest populations subjected to the Drone policy was the homeless, who were frequently targeted with fines for loitering and rough sleeping before they were inevitably swept up into the penal system as a result of these unpaid penalties.
While the Drone policy had been established with the protection of private creditors in mind, its longevity is sometimes attributed to the fact that the burden primarily fell on these underrepresented groups, particularly as local governments sought to effectively offload undesirable homeless populations onto the national justice system.
The Pax Drone policy remained in effect from 1983 to 2022. At its height, it is estimated that some 10 million Packilvanian citizens were designated as Drones. These were almost exclusively drawn from the lowest classes.
The Drone policy was widely criticized by sapient rights activists as a form of state-sponsored slavery. Drones were typically assigned to penal colonies that would then either utilize them on government projects, or else lease their labor out to private industries. Pax Drones had no control over who they worked for or what work they were required to do during their period of imprisonment, which was capped at 21 years. Drones had their movements and actions controlled and dictated in a manner similar to regular prisoners, and were frequently imprisoned alongside hardened convicts and subjected to levels of violence that were commonplace across the Packilvanian prison system. In some instances, Drones were sent to work on projects in foreign nations.
Abolition and Legacy
The Pax Drone policy was subject to controversy and scrutiny since its inception, and these only mounted as the number of citizens subjected to the policy expanded. Ironically, it was periods of economic turbulence that brought forward successive challenges to the policy. Depressions frequently created scenarios where even the less-impoverished and marginalized classes in Packilvania might struggle with their outstanding debts and thus face the grim prospects of being subjected to forced labor. This inevitably created pushback and outcries that could not be easily ignored, and as a result the Drone policy was steadily attrited and limited almost from its moment of inception. The implementation of modern bankruptcy laws in the 2000s almost entirely defanged the Drone policy, even as it lived on in theory.
The Drone policy was formally ended in 2022 as a part of wider government reforms that have been attributed to the rise of a new generation of Packilvanian leaders, such as the then-Crown Prince Thumim V.
Despite its abolishment, the Drone policy continues to have lingering effects both in Packilvania and around the world. Nations such as the Free Pacific States continue to host large numbers of former Pax Drones who had fled as asylum seekers and refugees. Additionally, forced labor remains a fact of life in Packilvanian prisons, although these facilities now enjoy far less autonomy and cannot freely lease out their prisoners, and financial profit is no longer the primary stated goal. Further, individuals can still be imprisoned for failing to pay certain government and court fines, which have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups.