In 1775, at age 29, John Howard lost his wife. Amid his severe grief he still decided to head for Portugal and Spain to assist in earthquake recovery where tens of thousands had died. His English ship, the Hanover, was seized by the French because there was war between England and France.
Howard was imprisoned and often deprived of food, water and even sunlight. It was a cruel place to be in for 5 years. The horrible conditions, degradation and abuse for even petty crimes were so bad Howard determined to do something after he got out of prison. One person died in prison after 10 years over a debt of under $15.
At age 24 he had written in his journal:”Here, on this sacred day, in the dust before the eternal God, I cast my guilty and polluted soul on the sovereign mercy of the Redeemer. Oh, compassionate and divine Lord, save me from the dreadful guilt and power of sin, and accept my solemn, free, and unreserved surrender!
He put that commitment into practice for years of devotion to prison reform and social justice throughout England and Europe. Over the years he addressed parliaments, rulers and lawmakers about prison reform. It took about 70 years before reform was fairly wide-spread. A tour of the newest prison in Oliver, BC made it clear to me that changes have been made, though making the right changes is still a challenge. He wanted his cause to be remembered. There are John Howard Societies all across Canada who strive to be the trusted voice on social and criminal justice issues. Thank you.