Our Mission & History
Effective, just, and humane responses to crime and its causes.
In furtherance of its Mission, the Society:
Provides for the effective integration into the community of those in conflict with the law and provides, or encourages others to provide, services to those in contact with, or affected by the criminal justice system;
Promotes changes in the law and the administration of justice which will lead to the more humane and effective treatment of individuals;
Promotes citizen awareness of the problems of crime and its causes, acceptance of responsibility to respond to these problems and involvement in the delivery and management of justice related programs;
Promotes the fair and humane treatment of all incarcerated persons and seeks to ensure that all forms of detention and imprisonment comply with relevant legal and human rights standards.
History of John Howard
John Howard was an 18th century Englishman who was captured by the French while sailing from England to Spain. He subsequently spent five years in French dungeons before returning to England as part of a prisoner exchange. Eventually, he was made the Sheriff of Bedford, a post which included among its duties, the task of inspecting local prisons. Few sheriffs actually bothered to carry out these duties but John Howard was different. Shocked by the corruption, stench, filth, starvation and disease he saw in the jails, he dedicated his life to improving prison conditions throughout England, Wales and continental Europe. His famous report, On the State of Prisons in England and Wales led to legislation against the more obvious evils of the system, and slowly moved public opinion to favour more humane prison conditions.
There are many organizations around the world which use the name John Howard. Most of them are associated with correctional reform and/or services to help offenders make positive changes in their lives. Although the organizations outside of Canada are not formally aligned, they share a common purpose and philosophy which reflects the life and work of the man John Howard.
In Ontario, The John Howard Society traces its roots back to religious classes taught in Toronto’s Don Jail in the late 1800s. In a more formal way, the organization was founded in 1929 by Brigadier General Draper, then the Chief of Police in Toronto. Draper recognized the futility in much of the work being done by police, trying to solve crimes and apprehend offenders, when prisoners who were being released from jail were thrust into circumstances of unemployment, isolation and poverty – circumstances that escalate rather than decrease the chances of re-offending.