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21 Jan 2016

Howard League celebrates its 150th birthday

The world’s oldest penal reform charity, the Howard League for Penal Reform, celebrates its 150th birthday this year with a busy programme of events and fundraising activities.

The charity has led a host of successful campaigns since it began life as the Howard Association back in 1866 – including drives to abolish the death penalty; to set up the probation service; to scrap corporal punishment; and, more recently, to repeal the criminal courts charge and overturn restrictions on sending books to prisoners.

These achievements – and information about the charity’s current campaigns – will be promoted in a Howard League exhibition in the House of Commons from Monday 29 February to Friday 4 March.

Celebrities including actor Emily Mortimer, historian Bettany Hughes and journalist Donal MacIntyre have agreed to ‘donate their birthdays’ to the Howard League, asking friends to make donations to the charity instead of giving presents. Many Howard League members are also donating their birthdays.

Experts from across the world will mark the charity’s anniversary when they gather for a major conference at Keble College, University of Oxford, from Wednesday 16 March to Friday 18 March.

Places are still available at the conference, Justice and Penal Reform: Re-shaping the penal landscape, which will consider how to create social and penal institutions that can make a safer and more cohesive society.

The Howard League’s journal, which was founded in 1921, is to be relaunched with a new title – The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice – and with Professor Ian Loader of Oxford University as Editor.

The Howard League is also giving its supporters the chance to take part in fundraising challenge events, offering places in the Virgin Money London Marathon as well as the Vitality Brighton Half Marathon, the Great North Run and the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The achievements of the Howard League over 150 years show the importance of civil society in a democracy. We can lead change, we can improve lives and we can temper excesses. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of our work is to guide public discourse on complex and sensitive issues like crime and justice. It is a great personal honour to be part of such a successful team. I am confident the Howard League for Penal Reform will be contributing to the life of the nation for centuries to come.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. For more information about the Howard League’s three-day international conference, Justice and Penal Reform: Re-shaping the penal landscape, click here.
  3. For more information about how to donate your birthday to the Howard League, click here.
  4. For more information about The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, click here.
  5. For more information about the Howard League’s challenge events, click here.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
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