Years ago, maybe as many as forty, I read about a space soldier - Marine, I think - who goes on shore leave to a bar, leaves the bar and discovers a body. He is arrested and convicted of murder, sent to a prison planet.

Upon arrival, he is informed he has a quota of one murder a week. A pickpocket befriends him. When he refuses to commit his assigned quota murder, they release him, believing his innocence.

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    Heh, a few weeks ago I remembered this story and thought of asking! – Anton Sherwood Nov 29 '20 at 4:41
  • That's a refreshingly happy and straightforward resolution. I was sure he was going to use his murder quota to deplete the prison staff until he can escape, or to get vengeance on the people/system that sent him to prison, or something along those lines. – aroth Nov 30 '20 at 3:23
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    @aroth The story doesn't end quite where this recollection does. It's worth a read. – Chris Hayes Nov 30 '20 at 7:14

It's a short story, not a novel, but this matches "The Perfect Punishment" (1965) by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. very well.

Lieutenant John Mohrlock accidentally kills a Centaurian in self defense after being attacked in a bar (they have very soft heads). The authorities on Daluse nevertheless convict him of murder and he is transported to their prison planet, Bal. There he is effectively let loose among all the other prisoners, with a weekly stipend to find room, food, etc. The day after he arrives he is assigned his quota: one murder per week. (Except he can't kill type B prisoners.)

The story was originally published in Worlds of Tomorrow, March 1965, under the title "Pariah Planet." You can read it at the Internet Archive.

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    A soldier called "Morlock"? That's some fine nominative determination... – Graham Nov 29 '20 at 17:52

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