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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 two 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.

Prison population rise over time

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.

Find a prison and compare it to others

Most overcrowded prisons in England and Wales

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 cover image

    Faint Hope

    Our report on what to do about prisoners serving long sentences.

  • Cost of prison suicide report cover - image of an inside of a prison cell

    The cost of prison suicide

    This first in a series of briefings considers the financial impact of self-inflicted deaths behind bars.

  • Punishment in Prison report cover

    Punishment in Prison

    This report explores how prison disciplinary hearings are leading to thousands of additional days of imprisonment.

Read more reports and research →

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