The Tories have pledged to revamp Britain's prison system to cut re-offending saying it was "wasting lives and wasting money".
Mr Howard was the man who proclaimed 'prison works'
Tory prisons spokesman Edward Garnier told The Times he had been on a "massive voyage of discovery" since taking over his brief.
Former leader Michael Howard is still remembered as the home secretary whose slogan was "prison works."
Mr Garnier said prisoners needed better education and more drug treatment.
He told The Times he was shocked to discover that just 2% of the prisons budget was spent on education and that drug treatment is not available for all prisoners who want it.
He also said the policy of closing mental hospitals - introduced by the Conservatives - should be reversed because too many people in prison should be in hospital instead.
Asked if he agreed with Mr Garnier, Tory leader David Cameron said: "What we have got to do is make sure prison really does rehabilitate people - 70% of prisoners are functioning illiterately and there may be a connection [with reoffending].
He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "We've got to change our prison system so that it does work, so that it does rehabilitate people and in every area, let's take law and order, I have said yes we have to have more police on the streets, we need to give the courts the power to hand out proper sentences and yes we need to reform the police."