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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 a link above to learn more about why these issues matter and what we are doing in each area of work.

Prison population rise over time

Weekly prison watch →

Prison numbers have more than doubled since the 1990s. There is always much more to be done. We work with parliament and the media, with criminal justice professionals, academics and members of the public, influencing debate and forcing through meaningful 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 us

    Add your voice to our movement for change. Every voice counts and we hope that you will add yours.

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  • Support our work

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

    Ways to support