The John Howard Society of Canada is a federation of provincial/territorial and local Societies comprised of people whose goal is to understand and respond to problems of crime, to work with people who have come into conflict with the law, to review, evaluate and advocate for changes in the criminal justice process, and to engage in public education on matters involving criminal law and its application.
There are provincial/territorial Societies in each of the ten provinces and in the Northwest Territories. Local branches and affiliates are associated with each provincial/territorial Society. Across Canada, there are 78 John Howard Society offices providing 451 programs serving clients, clients' families and the public at large.
Direct service to individuals is delivered primarily by the local branches and affiliates. The original focus of the founders of the John Howard Society was helping men released from prison. While aftercare continues to be a core service to this day, the activities of local Societies have expanded over the years. The services now include working with men in correctional facilities both federal and provincial, with people in community correctional programs, with young offenders both in custody and in the community, and, most recently, with people defined as being at risk of involvement in criminal activity.
Generally, the provincial/territorial Societies take primary responsibility for reform and community education activities and provide administrative support to the branches and affiliates. Activities such as communications (for example, compiling, publishing and distributing A Directory of John Howard Programs Across Canada) and research on federal matters tend to be done through the national Society.
The John Howard Society depends on public involvement. All levels of the organization are governed by voluntary boards of directors. Volunteers are extensively involved in the direct service work of the Society. Many also support the work of the John Howard Society through donations.
Branches and affiliates provide a wide range of services and programs to young offenders including education for youth at the primary prevention level, training and employment services for youth, counselling (some specific to problems such as drug and alcohol abuse and sexual offending), literacy and/or life skills programs for youth, supervision of young offender Community Service Orders, young offender Victim and Offender Reconciliation/Restitution programs, young offender Attendance Centre programs, and residential programs.
At the provincial/territorial and national levels, activities have included providing testimony in a professional capacity at young offender transfer hearings; preparing community education bulletins, position papers and briefs related to the issues of youth crime and young offenders; and working with a coalition of organizations and individuals concerned about the welfare of children.