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Why the system is broken

The Howard League works for less crime, safer communities, fewer people in prison. Read on to find out how prison fails to tackle the underlying causes of crime.

A prisoner leans against a barrier on a wing in Portland prison

The number of men, women and children sent to prison has more than doubled over the last three decades. Although most spend less than a year inside, this comes at a terrible cost to the taxpayer, society and communities. Reoffending on release creates ever more victims of crime.

While the prison population continues to grow, the money and resources available to manage that population growth is simply not there. More and more we see prisoners lying on their bunks with little positive to do. There are problems of prison suicides, rising violence and drug abuse behind bars.

A prisoner sits in his cell in Portland prison with a hot drink

Crime is often caused by drug or drink problems, by poor mental health, or through abuse and neglect at an early age. The public deserves a justice system that tackles these underlying causes of crime and invests in prevention.

We can never imprison our way to a safer society. Prisons store up and create problems that come back to haunt our communities in the form of more crime and human misery.

Carol Ann Duffy reads a poem outside Pentonville prison

Read about our current campaigns and help us achieve less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.

Our campaigns →

Reports and research

  • Faint Hope report cover

    Faint hope

    This report examines prison systems in Canada, Portugal and the Netherlands, and considers what to do about prisoners serving long sentences in England and Wales.

  • Preventing prison suicide

    This report asserts that prisons must become safer, healthier places to reduce suicide risk.

  • The rising tide

    This report explores how the disciplinary system in prisons has become unsustainable, with almost 360,000 additional days of imprisonment imposed in 2017.

Read more reports and research →

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