Pao'la was a planet in the Klingon Empire, largely covered in dense jungles, and a rich source of dilithium. In addition to a commercial spaceport, Pao'la was the site of a secret prison, populated primarily by beings from outside the Empire. It was administrated by Commander K'zeq from at least 2279 to circa 2281. Following K'zeq's retirement, Commander Korax was made commander. The prison housed approximately a thousand prisoners, and employed over a hundred guards, including Khulr and Moqlah.

In 2279, eight Starfleet officers and crewmen, survivors of an attack on the USS Gagarin, were brought to the Pao'la prison, including her commander, Captain Gralev. Gralev was tortured and killed shortly after their arrival. Two others, Ensign Randall Bird and Chief Robert Kawaguchi, also died while in captivity. The five remaining officers – Stephen Garrovick, Sydney Elliot, Cheryl Flodin, Ra Mhvlovi, and Sinak – were rescued in 2287 in a joint effort by Captains Koloth and James T. Kirk.

Following Chancellor Gorkon's rise to power in 2287, the Pao'la prison was ordered destroyed, as a symbol of dishonor. All prisoners and guards left inside were killed when the facility was fired on by the IKS Zan'zi. (TOS novel: In the Name of Honor)

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