Our History

Edmonton John Howard Society takes its name and spirit from the 18th century humanitarian, John Howard (1726-1790), whose name has become a symbol of humane consideration for incarcerated individuals.

John Howard was a voluntary and unofficial enquirer into the subject of 18th century prisons and prisoners. In 1773, John Howard began his work as a prison reformer as the Sheriff of Bedford. For the next twenty years Howard worked to improve the terrible conditions of prisons. His report, “On the State of Prisons in England and Wales,” along with other writings, was instrumental in establishing regulations to reform prison systems.

John Howard was not afraid to voice his concerns or critique prison conditions. On one of his seven trips to Europe, he told the Emperor of Vienna that he would rather be hung than stay in the Emperor’s dungeons. As a private, involved citizen, John Howard set an example that has become a cornerstone of the John Howard Societies: there cannot be effective crime prevention solutions without community participation.

In 1866, the Howard Association was formed in England to continue John Howard’s work. This association merged with the League for Penal Reform in 1921 to form the “Howard League of Penal Reforms.” The first official John Howard Society in Canada was formed in Vancouver in 1924 and officially incorporated in 1931. John Howard Society of Alberta was established in 1948, followed in 1949 by formation of the Edmonton District Council. Edmonton John Howard Society was incorporated as an independent society in 1984.

For a more detailed history of Edmonton John Howard Society’s first 60 years, A Milestone Project: 60 Years of Service to Our Community .