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While you’re here, can you help support our work by making a donation? We are an independent charity and rely on donations to continue our work for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison. Please help us secure our future by donating and adding your voice to our movement for change.

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What we do

The Howard League is a national charity working for 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.

  • Our success

    Find out how we have secured positive change to make communities safer.

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

Prison population rise over time

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 →
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    Everything we do is focused on achieving less crime, safer communities, fewer people in prison. We need you to act now for penal reform.

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