Our work

The John Howard Association (JHA) is Illinois' only non-partisan prison watch dog and correctional policy organization.  JHA’s primary activities are:

Monitoring all of Illinois' prisons, both adult and juvenile 

To monitor prison conditions and programs, JHA staff and volunteers tour every prison to observe, collect data, and talk to those who live and work inside the prisons. Our visits result in reports that inform the public, media, and law and policy makers about the issues inside Illinois’ prisons.

Advocating to improve the criminal justice and prison systems

JHA’s advocacy program includes: advancing legislative initiatives; serving on advisory
boards to Illinois correctional agencies; providing expert testimony to state and national legislative
and executive branch committees and commissions; and writing reports which promote policy
change by elected officials and state agency leaders. JHA is also frequently quoted in the media.

Providing targeted direct services to inmates and their families.

JHA’s targeted direct services program benefits inmates and their families in two different ways.

First, JHA has a Prison Reponse Unit that responds to approximately 4,000+ inquiries annually from inmates and families seeking help. This window into the lived realities of Illinois’ prisoners informs all of JHA’s work.

Second, JHA also runs Legal Literacy Clinics inside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (“JTDC”) to educate youth in pretrial detention facing adult criminal charges and their families about the criminal justice system and their legal rights in every stage of criminal proceedings. The clinics are taught by JHA staff and volunteer attorneys, and both the youth and their family members can submit legal questions to them and receive answers on an ongoing basis.

Together, JHA’s program areas provide a holistic view of the criminal justice and correctional systems in Illinois. We use our unique vantage point to be the eyes and ears of the public, which allows us greater exposure to and understanding of the issues, which enhances our ability to promote important change.