John Howard - English Prison Reformer

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  • Published : September 23, 2011
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JOHN HOWARD (1726 - 1790)

• 1st English prison reformer, he tried to improve the state of prisons in England in 18th century

• He wasn´t a philosopher, he was a humanist, he was influenced by his real life.

His life:

o When he was 16 years old he inherited a lot of money so he was travelling around the world. Once time his ship was captured by French and he had to spend time in a French prison. This experience with living in horrific conditions influenced his future work and focus in the live of prisoners

o In 1773 he was invited to become High Sheriff of Bedford. Under the responsibilities of this office was to visit prisons. He was shocked by what he found in Bedford prison. In the 18th century the situation in prisons wasn´t positive for the prisoners. The jailers didn´t get a salary, but they received money from the prisoners for food, bedding and other facilities. This system applied throughout England and meant that the poorest prisoners lived in terrible conditions.

o Howard decided to travel around Europe to see other prisons and conditions in them. He found that it´s the same everywhere. In 1774 he gave information that he had collected to the House of Commons. Then Parliament passed the Gaol Act. Jailors fees were abolished and conditions of prisoners should improve. Bur Howard saw that new act is ignored by justices and the jailors.

o In 1775 he began a tour to prisons in other European countries. He was in France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Russian etc.

o His fifth journey to Holland, Germany and Russia was fatal. John Howard contracted typhus and died.

His work:

• The State of Prisons in England and Wales with an Account of Some Foreign Prisons (1777) - the results of his trips, it includes detailed accounts of the prisons he had visited with plans and maps, the book was so shocking that in some countries could not be published.

• An Account of...
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