John Howard Society of British Columbia fonds

1922 - 1988
18.7 m of textual records
20 photographs

Administrative history

The John Howard Society of British Columbia takes its name and its spirit from the 18th century prison reformer who throughout his life demonstrated his firm belief that every citizen must ultimately accept his or her individual responsibility for the criminal justice system. The John Howard Society of British Columbia was established in Vancouver in 1931. It was the first John Howard Society in Canada. The objects of the Society as outlined in its Constitution (1932) were to seek to remove conditions which lead persons into crime; to befriend the first offender; to work for the wise and just treatment of those confirmed to penal institutions; to guide and help the mothers, wives and children of men in prison; to help discharged and paroled men and women to re-establish themselves; and to work for wise and just legislation with reference to court procedures and penal administration.

The Society has grown so that in 1995 the Society has over 50 offices across Canada with a national office in Ottawa.

The Society is still in operation, assisting inmates and released offenders to overcome the hardship of a prison record primarily through counseling, emergency relief, employment assistance, housing and referrals to other organizations.

The professional staff of the Society are responsible for visiting regularly or being on-call to various correctional facilities throughout British Columbia. These include prisons, forest camps, community correctional centres and half-way houses. Staff offer counseling, advocacy, pre-release planning, educational guidance and develop self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Seventh Step Society. Staff also assist clients in the courts offering pre-sentence intervention, alternatives to incarceration, and counseling. In addition, family members are supported by the Society in acquiring life skills and attending community development programs.

The Society is also involved in parole, probation, bail supervision and community assessments, lessening the demands on existing facilities. In the area of education, the Society provides speakers for service clubs, churches and community groups desiring information about the criminal justice system and for furthering the cause of penal reform. In the area of advocacy, the Society's staff has been involved in preparing briefs and papers and corresponding with Government officials and others in an attempt to monitor the criminal justice system and encourage alternatives.

In 1983, the John Howard Society of British Columbia moved its head office to Victoria and acts as an umbrella organization for the various independent John Howard Societies operating throughout British Columbia.

Scope and content

The records of the John Howard Society of British Columbia consist of the Society's administrative records and client case files and cards used to document information about individual clients.

The administrative records of the Society document all aspects of the Society's work. They are broken down into three separate series, reflecting the particular manner in which the Society operated. First, a separate series of miscellaneous records which the Society appears to have kept apart from its established file system dates from 1932 to 1988. A second series of administrative records dating from 1932 to about 1968 reflects the Society's file classification plan in use at the time (see Appendix B1 - hard-copy finding aid only). A third group of administrative records reflects a new file classification plan which replaced the earlier file system (see Appendix B2 - hard-copy finding aid only).

Individual client case files and cards provide evidence of the Society's involvement with individual clients, such as prison visits, counseling sessions and other related actions undertaken by the Society on behalf of its clients.

Records comprising this fonds are records created at the Vancouver office of the Society, and do not include records created by the various regional offices.

The fonds is arranged into the following series:

Source of title

Title of the fonds is based on the name of the organization.

Immediate source of acquisition

The records of the John Howard Society of British Columbia were donated to the Simon Fraser University Archives in January 1993 by the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland. A donation agreement was entered into between the John Howard Society and the Archives involving the transfer of ownership and matters pertaining to access and confidentiality of information contained in the files.


Pursuant to article 4.03 of the Donation Agreement between the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland of B.C. and Simon Fraser University, the John Howard Society of British Columbia fonds is subject to the principles of privacy as laid out in the 1992 Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (c. 61). Part 4.03 of the Agreement on access stipulates that:

"In providing access to any part of the client files, the Archives will act in accordance with the principles of privacy as laid out in the Freedom on Information and Protection of Privacy Act, S.B.C., 1992, c. 61 and such amendments to this Act as may be made from time to time. The University Archivist assumes responsibility for administering access to the records and for interpreting the application of these principles when considering individual requests for research access to these files. The John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland shall be permitted to have access to the Restricted Material, and such access shall be on the conditions set out in the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland of B.C.'s authorization."

Article 8 of the Agreement refers to the confidentiality of the papers:

"The Archives acknowledges that certain information relating to the activities of the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland of B.C. is confidential. The Archives shall use its best efforts to maintain the absolute confidentiality of all restricted materials."

Accordingly, files in series F-1-1 (Client case files) and F-1-2 (Client case cards) are restricted in order to protect the personal information and privacy of clients of the John Howard Society. Files marked 'pending review' must be reviewed by an archivist prior to release, and as a result of the review access restrictions may apply. Please see the file lists and consult the archivist for more details.

Finding aids

Series descriptions and file lists are available. Office file classification plans are available (photocopies) are available in the hard copy version of the finding aid maintained in the Archives Reading Room.


Additional material has been accessioned but not yet processed (as of September 2002: 4.33 m., 1932-1994). Please consult the archivist for information about using these materials; restrictions may apply. It is expected that future accruals of the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland, the local body now carrying out program areas of the Society, will be acquired by Simon Fraser University Archives.

Related material

The records of the John Howard Society of Vancouver Island, a separate and independent John Howard Society, are held at the University of British Columbia Library, University Archives Division.

Note on preparation of finding aid

Finding aid prepared by Gary Carre, Frances Fournier, Enid Britt (August 1995).

Updated by Richard Dancy (March 2006).

Access points




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