What We Do

Scotland is uniquely well placed to find, more enlightened and effective ways of reducing and dealing with crime.

Although the primary focus of HLS is penal reform, we necessarily take an interest in broader questions of criminal justice and social policy. This is because the longer term solutions to many ostensibly ‘penal’ issues lie outside the criminal justice system in initiatives that address poverty, inequality and violence at source.

The evidence tells us that more reliance on effective community responses to crime and dealing with criminality will have a greater chance of success in reducing crime. This is the direction that has already been successfully taken by many of our Northern European neighbours. Of particular interest to HLS are:

  • links between poverty and crime
  • early intervention and prevention
  • relationships between drug and alcohol abuse and crime
  • treatment of young people in the criminal justice system
  • reducing the unnecessary use of imprisonment
  • the rehabilitation of offenders and the effectiveness of interventions, and
  • improving prison regimes.

The Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland (HLS) promotes just responses to the causes and consequences of crime. It aims to be a forum for the stimulation of new and progressive thinking in penal practice and the critical questioning of prevailing penal initiatives, based on evidence of ‘what works’ and careful ethical reflection on ‘what’s right’.

HLS wishes to see a Scotland where there is less crime, where people feel safe within their communities, where prison is reserved for the most serious offenders and where those who offend are given the opportunity to turn their lives around.

Our members have extensive experience across – and active engagement in – all aspects of the criminal justice system in Scotland. Members, including Committee members, represent all stages of careers. HLS maintains an up-to-date evidence base and seeks to draw from the wisdom of its members' experience and engagement to promote effective pathways to achieve realisable goals for Scotland’s criminal justice system. These goals include a sustained reduction in prisoner numbers.

The League does not receive government funding and, therefore, can speak independently on penal reform and related issues. HLS has a long tradition of both provoking public debate and engaging with official bodies to improve and refine penal practice in respect of prison regimes, resettlement and the provision of community disposals.

HLS seeks to achieve its aims by:

  • Gathering evidence about what works, to inform all it does
  • Stimulating debate about sound, effective penal practice and challenging poor, ineffective practice
  • Engaging with government and opposition in respect of current and future policy initiatives
  • Widening the support base for penal reform, particularly amongst younger people
  • Engaging all available media to gain a platform for progressive thinking on penal reform
  • Attracting new members and funds to further its work.

HLS does not represent individuals nor provide services.

In pursuit of our aims we work closely with our sister organisation — the Howard League for England and Wales, which is a separate charity.

If you want to keep abreast of news on Criminal Justice issues in Scotland see the excellent site at: www.cjscotland.org.uk or download their free publication Scottish Justice Matters.

If you would like to comment on any of these issues, please contact us at admin@howardleague.scot