In theory, the person is only selling his or her labor. In practice, however, indentured servants were basically slaves and the courts enforced the laws that made it so. The treatment of the servant was harsh and often brutal. In fact, the Virginia Colony prescribed “bodily punishment for not heeding the commands of the master.” (Ballagh, 45) Half the servants died in the first two years. As a result of this type of treatment, runaways were frequent. The courts realized this was a problem and started to demand that everyone have identification and travel papers. (. Smith 264-270).