Reflecting on PREA 10 Years After Legislative Passage

Reflecting on PREA 10 Years After Legislative Passage

June 4, 2013 | John A. Kaneb, Chairman, Board of Directors of HP Hood LLC

prea

John A. Kaneb is the former Vice Chair of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of HP Hood LLC. He is also President of The Catamount Companies and a partner in the Boston Red Sox baseball franchise. In addition to those interests, Mr. Kaneb is a Trustee Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. He is also a Trustee Emeritus of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Trustee Emeritus and former Chairman of the Board of McLean Hospital. Mr.

John A. Kaneb is the former Vice Chair of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of HP Hood LLC. He is also President of The Catamount Companies and a partner in the Boston Red Sox baseball franchise. In addition to those interests, Mr. Kaneb is a Trustee Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. He is also a Trustee Emeritus of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Trustee Emeritus and former Chairman of the Board of McLean Hospital. Mr. Kaneb serves also on boards, committees, and task forces, including the Board of Fellows of the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard Task Forces on Finance and Science, and the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Boston. Mr. Kaneb earned his bachelor of arts in economics from Harvard College. He holds honorary doctor of laws degrees from Saint Anselm College and the University of Notre Dame.

September 3, 2013, will mark the 10th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s signing of the National Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). As I write this blog in May 2013, the process of training auditors who will assess and report compliance with the standards which mandate policies and procedures to eliminate sexual abuse in custody has already begun. It is critical that qualified independent auditors quickly be recruited and trained on a broad scale. Ten years is a very long interval between the promise of protection and the verification of its reality.

These are strong but achievable standards that Attorney General Eric Holder has issued to the corrections community. I am hopeful that the Department of Homeland Security will soon issue equally strong standards to protect its detainees. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the leading Senate sponsor of PREA, told me on several occasions that these poor detainees, who are not even convicted criminals, are even more vulnerable to abuse than convicted inmates.

In 1942, when the tide began to turn against the aggressors in World War II, Winston Churchill observed, “It is not the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.” The fight against sexual abuse of defenseless prisoners and detainees is further along than the allies were when Churchill spoke those beautiful words: for victims and their advocacy, it is the beginning of the end of sexual abuse! The corrections community is implementing the standards, and the audit will show improving compliance. Full compliance will come sooner than skeptics think.

It is my hope and expectation that corrections community leadership will use these standards to create a culture where the sexual abuse of people in their custody is not tolerated—be it inmate-on-inmate or staff-on-inmate. Meaningful movement in this direction was already underway before the Attorney General promulgated the standards in May last year. Within a few years, the tolerance of sexual abuse can go the way of other social vices. Racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and abuse/neglect of the disabled used to be prevalent but have been prohibited by law and now are disappearing because of a healthy social consensus. So it will be with sexual abuse of people in custody!

To learn more about NCCD’s work on the National PREA Resource Center (PRC), click here to read this month’s NCCD Now feature on the PRC’s efforts to assist correctional agencies across the country to implement the national PREA standards.