Straffbataljons are formed from deserters, "subversives", civil "small criminals" (non-capital felons), and soldiers convicted of any number of crimes but not deserving or otherwise escaping execution as punishment. Ordinarily they are used for boring tasks like rail, road, and port operation and maintenance. Most penal troops are trained in a trade such as tracklaying, road scraping/paving, or operation of earthmoving equipment, and sent to rear area units where they require relatively little supervision in performance of their duties beyond what is ordinarily expected of a penal labor unit.
The penal soldier wears a yellow armband and yellow helmet, and his uniform has a nametape with the word "STRAFF" (Penal) in black-on-gold, instead of "ARMY" or "NAVY" in gold-on-blue or white-on-gold. They are ordinarily issued surplus military uniforms, such as the m/65 battle dress shown, or older olive drab versions of the m/90 combat uniform as the latter are slowly replaced by the m/15 pattern. The Sh42 combat helmet is the primary headgear worn by penal troops, although this is mostly intended for protection from falling objects like boxes or rocks or tools, rather than protection against splinter.
As straffbataljons are not permitted to carry weapons, they cannot defend themselves, and for military railroad and bridgelaying battalions formed from penal troops, this often means they must receive a detachment of regular troops for escort. In rare instances where a penal laborer distinguishes himself in combat or service, his criminal record is amended to reflect this, and his time in a penal outfit can exonerated by good conduct; otherwise they serve a statutory sentence ranging from 6 months to 4 years in a penal labor battalion. They are also not normally issued body armor, load bearing equipment, or anything else of the sort, although in some cases (such as traffic control, harbor operations, or railroad service in combat zones), they may wear reflective vests. Sometimes body armor vests may be allocated to specific battalions, especially if they are expected to be near combat and when armed escort is needed. This is most common for railroad maintenance troops, who often ride ahead of military supply trains in a smaller work trains, replacing damaged rail. Military railroad units normally include a maintenance operations company of some 100 laborers and a dozen officers and staff NCOs, with most of the laborers operating hi-rail inspection vehicles or the rail-laying work trains, and includes organic radio-telephone equipment for integration with a rifle platoon or motorized military police platoon, who function as both military escort and a blocking detachment for arrest of deserting troops.
Approximately 75% of a railway operating battalion's 600-700 personnel can be composed of penal troops, with a minimal impact on its effectiveness, and it requires an attachment of up to a motorized military police company when operating near the forward line or when desertion risk is high. Primary armaments of the blocking detachment are 40mm grenade launchers, rifle grenade adapters for firing ring-airfoil projectiles, rifle butts, 12 gauge shotguns, light machine guns, and road-rail dual capability trucks and light armor vehicles. Other armaments include anti-tank grenade launchers such as the AT-4, anti-bunker launchers such as the AT-8, and .50 caliber and 40mm machine guns mounted on vehicles. Special purpose equipment is preponderant, with military policemen routinely carrying riot control weapons such as OC pellet guns (glorified paintball guns), CS or rubber ball grenades, cattle prods, taser pistols and ammunition, rubber pellet mines, and beanbag shotgun and sponge grenade launcher ammunition; to varying degrees depending on whether a laborer desertion risk or military attack is a greater threat. Penal labor often augments the work of the infantry unit, especially when replacing rail near combat zones, where the infantrymen will require sandbags and other barriers to defend the work site from attacks, which is why the track maintenance unit has an overabundance of labor.
Penal troop NCOs, that is to say NCOs who are prisoners, wear the reflective helmet cover during nighttime to improve visibility. Ordinary ranks wear the yellow helmet with cat's eye band. Both wear reflective vests when working in the field. The reflective vests are ordinary road safety equipment, sourced from the same factory that produces the safety vests for the Interior Ministry's Roads Bureau and nationally-owned Gallan Railways. Because they are serving a mandatory prison sentence, penal laborers receive no compensation or pay for their labor (instead, they receive a small weekly stipend), but they do receive clothing, room, board, and training to perform their job; including ancillary training such as learning how to swim (or at the very least tread water) if they are working in a harbor guard or under direction of a port authority.
Prisoners who are not considered suitable for "field grade" penal labor are remanded to labor camps (similar to Xinjiang's laogai camps, but with fewer bed bugs and slightly more bread) or sweatshops where they produce cheap goods such as T-shirts, military equipment pouches, blouses, and jeans on sewing machines, or assemble cheap sneaker shoes or boots, or woodworking or carpentry such as assembly of surprisingly well made mahogany desks (this is a popular government budget item), or whatever, similar to Mexicans and Vietnamese in the U.S. economy. The expectation is that these workers will be able to take their newfound understanding of themselves into the civil low skill labor market. Often, private companies in Galla that produce cheap shoes or other small goods will employ inmates for the line work, while managers and foremen are either experienced inmates or former inmates who have been released, and in wartime these laborers may be sourced from military prisons if their crimes are not warranting of execution. These penal-soldier-laborers do not receive a uniform beyond that of the standard Ministry of Justice's Bureau of Prisons' blue "work suit" and they are allowed to wear their own underclothes.
The Ministry of Justice's wartime exigency demands that supermax felons, dangerous or violent inmates, and those who receive "exile recorded" at sentencing, are to be immediately liquidated and their wings and specialist prisons converted into prisoner-of-war control points.
While some people might argue that retaining special "supermax" prisoners is counterproductive if they are simply going to be liquidated immediately during wartime (why not liquidate them immediately after sentencing? regardless of this being essentially what happens (give or take a mandatory stay of execution) anyway), the ulterior purpose of such things is to maintain a crop of high security prisons for POWs who are at risk of Son Tay or Mussolini style commando raiders rescuing them from the clutches of the Ministry of War's intelligence battalions and the SIK special collections office. The purpose of the prisoners is basically to keep the guards in some manner of readiness and have an excuse for why the facilities aren't simply mothballed, so in peacetime they act as high security prisons for people who are dangerous (violent inmates who are "ringleaders" or "leading men") or murderers, rapists, "habitual criminals", or whatever, who explicitly refused exile as punishment and are waiting for the appeals court to review their case (takes a couple weeks to a couple months) and their citizenship to be revoked prior to being executed.
In wartime, individuals convicted of murder, or any crime worthy of exile or "revocation of the privilege of citizenship", are executed as soon as possible after sentencing, in accordance with martial law. Historically, this can be as long as a few weeks, or as fast as it takes the constable or bailiff in charge of peace of the court to pull the man outside, tie him to a post, gather a group of riflemen, and form a firing squad to carry out the execution. The fastest military execution in Gallan records was performed in 38 seconds from the magistrate's pronouncement to trigger pull, for a 17-year old male soldier convicted of rape, murder, and necrophilia of a 19-year old Gallan female, in the Third Northern War in 1913. Much of the time spent was the fumbling of a bemused group of riflemen and a sergeant, who nearly tripped over themselves as the convicted man ran to the firing wall and stood at attention while the firing squad was assembled, apparently taking the magistrate's statement of his execution to be carried out "with all due haste" literally.
Summary executions are legal under martial law in Gallan justice, provided a flag officer (Lieutenant Colonel or higher rank) oversees (he does not need to be physically present, but his approval must be in writing with explanation), and have been meted out in the past, but the difficulty of proving that an individual could not be transported to a military prison or POW collection point safely or whatever means that it is rare to be used outside of direct combat, where surrendering soldiers may be accidentally shot or something. Notable exceptions to this hesitancy include free shooters (always immediately shot no quarter camp x-ray is located at 666 Wormfood Avenue, Six Feet Under, Beyond The Veil 06660, USA) and fifth column saboteurs (sometimes shot but only if they are known to be working alone).