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Our campaigns

The Howard League campaigns for meaningful change in the criminal justice system. Everything we do seeks to achieve our aim of less crime, safer communities, fewer people in prison.

  • Transform prisons

    As well as campaigning for fewer people in prison, we work to transform prisons for those who would remain behind bars.

  • Children and policing

    We campaign to improve policing and reduce the criminalisation of children in England and Wales.

  • Our legal work

    We have the only frontline national legal team specialising in the legal rights and entitlements of children and young people in custody.

  • Women in the penal system

    Learn more about our work on women in the penal system.

Click on any of the links above to learn more about what we are doing to achieve change.

Weekly prison watch →

The number of people in prison has more than doubled since the 1990s, bringing an over-burdened and under-resourced system to breaking point. We work with politicians and the media, with criminal justice professionals, academics and the public, to influence debate and achieve change.

About John Howard

John Howard is widely considered to be the first penal reformer. He lived in the eighteenth century and his life inspired admirers to establish the Howard League for Penal Reform in 1866.

John Howard


Born in Hackney, East London.


Apprenticed to grocers and sugar merchants, near St Paul’s.


Sets off for Lisbon, captured by privateers and imprisoned in France, released later that year.


Appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire. Makes first tour of English prisons.


Addresses committee of the House of Commons on state of prisons.


Howard publishes The State of the Prisons.


Penitentiary Houses Act. Howard appointed as one of three superintendents to choose sites and design and build new gaols.


Resigns post and continues to tour foreign prisons.


Falls ill from fever and dies in Kherson, Ukraine.

Read more about John Howard →
  • Join the Howard League

    We are the world's oldest prison charity, bringing people together to advocate for change.

    Join us and make your voice heard
  • Support our work

    We safeguard our independence and do not accept any funding from government.

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