Ken Clarke saved lives and money as justice secretary, campaigners said today.
The no-nonsense Tory was a "breath of fresh air" who focused on reducing reoffending rates and saving taxes, the Howard League for Penal Reform said.
"These policies will save money and save lives," chief executive Frances Crook said.
"He fought to get prisoners doing an honest day's work rather than lying around in bed.
"He has started to shift the balance towards community sentences that change lives and reduce crime and away from the old cliche of 'prison works'."
Ms Crook went on: "Kenneth Clarke was a breath of fresh air as justice secretary. Rather than grabbing cheap headlines, he focused on cutting reoffending and saving taxpayers' money."
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Ken Clarke brought fairness and common sense to public debate on crime.
"He steadied prison numbers, introduced sensible legislation to reduce needless remand and abolished runaway indeterminate sentences."
She added: "His successor will need to have the strength and courage to resist political point scoring, challenge vested interest and avoid undermining a reform programme that is reducing crime and saving money."