Why does treatment of prisoners matter, isn’t prison supposed to be a punishment?

The punishment is supposed to be loss of liberty. The punishment is not supposed to be loss of liberty and additional uncontrolled ill treatment. Our justice system sentences someone to 6 months in prison. They are not sentenced to fear, random beatings, loss of medical rights, and mental health problems from long term solitary isolation. This is important not only as a principle of justice, but because the vast majority of people inside will one day be released. It is a perfect opportunity to role-model respect and the type of pro-social behavior we want people to exhibit on the outside.

If prison conditions were worse wouldn't that scare people into not offending again?

It’s an idea that appeals to the way some people wish the world worked. ‘Surely if I hit the bully with a big stick they will become a nice person and not bully people any more?’ It doesn’t work. It makes people angry and resentful, and ultimately does not create the sort of change in someone that is needed.

More importantly, the majority of people in prison are already familiar with abuse and dysfunction of one sort or another. Most prisoners are victims as well as offenders (as many as 69% of men in prison for non-sexual offenses have been sexual abused).  Adding more of the same and hoping for a different result is less than genius.

Where does the name Howard League come from? It makes no sense.

The name comes from a prison reformer called John Howard. It is part of an international movement with common principles. The name is also well known and recognised among people in the legal and criminal justice sectors. We hear often that the name does not explain what we do, and we do understand that concern. However, because of its history there are many people associated with the League who have a strong connection to it.


A short history on John Howard is buried somewhere in the ‘about’ tab on this website.

By supporting prisoners aren't you supporting the offenders instead of the victims?

It is not one thing or the other. Victims of crime absolutely need more support and are often left alienated by the current system. As well as more support for victims, as a society we need to be concerned about the welfare of offenders. In part this is because they are often also victims and breaking cycles of violence helps everyone; it is also partly because they will ultimately be released into society again and how they are treated plays a role in preventing re-offending, which means fewer victims. But it is also because how we treat people, including prisoners, says something about who we are as a society.

Are the 'Humans' interviews really their own words?

Yes. Some really interesting stories eh?

Is Corrections responsible for how poorly the system is operating?

Corrections are trying to do a difficult job without sufficient resources. Overcrowding, double bunking, and even some of the confinement practices that come from attempting to manage overcrowded and under staffed prisons are not of Corrections making. They don’t have control over their resources or numbers.

There has some history of poor attitudes in some areas, in some cases problems at a high level. Senior staff of Christchurch Men’s who have been stood down (on full pay) for a year and a half for serious misconduct and spying is a case in point. However, the majority of guards, case officers and national staff are good people trying to make a difference under difficult circumstances.

While it is important to hold any large institution to account, many of New Zealand’s prison problems are at a policy rather than institutional level.

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