Since February 2 when Blade Reed was goaded into taking a swing at another kid in the Wabash Valley Correctional Institution’s youthful offender wing, it’s been like watching a train wreck happening in slow motion.
Now I’m sorry I haven’t told you anything about this before now, but we were afraid the prison staff would carry out reprisals against the kid if we were to make any waves.
The staff has always reserved particular cruelties for Blade, but now it seems to us that the best way to protect him is to bring attention to the inhumane brutalities to which he is being subjected.
Right now things couldn’t get much worse for Blade, who is now in a “strip cell” in the solitary confinement unit without anything at all to occupy or calm him—that is, it couldn’t get worse unless the authorities were to take away his underwear or give him a razor blade (as has happened before). They’re tormenting a vulnerable, mentally-disabled juvenile.
This is state-sanctioned torture… and to what end?
The authorities would tell you they’re punishing Blade for fighting per standard IDOC procedure, and teaching him that fighting doesn’t wash at Wabash. But my take on it is that they’re meting out special treatment designed to break him or kill him, demanding behavior from Blade with which, as an autistic kid, he is not wired to comply. Despite his 17 years, Blade Reed has been evaluated and documented as functioning mentally somewhere around the level of a 10-year-old. He was functioning at an 8-year-old level at the time he was arrested and charged as an adult for his role as an accessory in a murder committed by his older brother, who called all the shots in his domineering relationship with Blade.
The incident that has landed Blade in solitary confinement was initiated by another prisoner who has taken on the torment of Blade Reed as a special pastime. He knows Blade’s hot buttons and knows that he can goad Blade into reacting to harassment that will get Blade punished much more severely than he will be punished. The authorities have consistently failed to keep Blade and his tormenter separated, and they appear to allow situations to escalate until Blade predictably does something stupid.
The other boy was confined to his cell for only five days without phone or recreation privileges; Blade was sent off to solitary confinement until April 5, where he is deprived of much more than phone and recreation, and subjected to conditions including sleep depravation that exacerbate his mental health issues.
With the full knowledge of the prison’s top administrators, a hearing was held on February 8, whereupon Blade was placed in “Administrative Segregation,” which is a prison euphemism for solitary confinement. From past experience, the authorities know this only makes Blade’s state of mind worse. This time, as a concession to help ameliorate the negative impact isolation would have on Blade’s wellbeing, the administration promised they would allow Blade to have a radio with headphones (which Stephen and Mrs. Reed paid for), but it was never delivered by the prison commissary.
Blade’s mother visited him on February 11, just three days into his solitary confinement, and she reported that Blade looked terrible. She said he had bags under eyes and drawn features. She said he seemed to be suffering.
Since Blade’s isolation began, Stephen has received two letters from Blade. The first one seemed upbeat and hopeful, and Blade promised to get through the ordeal the best he could. The second letter, however, seemed more ominous as Blade explained what he was facing and how it compared to his previous experiences in isolation. Some highlights:
“The last time I was here in the CCU, I had many problems.
“#1 Most important, I got minimum to no schooling, and for the schooling I did get there was no help. I didn’t receive the material or help that I needed to learn.
“#2 Staff were constantly messing with me. I was rarely able to come out of my cell for a shower or recreation, and when I was allowed to, you know what happened.(Note: See my previous post, “Worse than I Knew,” at: http://wandervogeldiary.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/worse-than-i-knew/.)
“#3 Recreation for us juveniles is supposed to be 2 hours a day. I was lucky to get an hour once or twice a week, when I did get it at all.
“#4 I was sprayed with mace and pepper spray twice, cell extracted, beat up, and harassed all the time by staff members.
“#5 Many times I went without eating because I was in a strip cell and staff would either not care to bring me my food or when they did bring it they would touch everything without gloves or wrappers protecting the food.
“#6 They constantly kept me in a strip cell, for one point for over a month, and I was left naked with nothing. At one point I even went one whole week without a mattress or clothes, so I was forced to stay up for 4 days until I finally fell asleep on the steel bed.”
This morning Stephen received a phone call from Blade informing Stephen that he was being transferred from a normal solitary confinement cell to a “strip cell,” which is devoid of anything to occupy his time or make him comfortable. He has been stripped down to his underwear and does not even have a mattress. Blade has been placed on suicide watch for 72 hours because last night, having been sleep deprived for a couple nights, Blade lost it, began pounding on the door for the other inmates to stop making so much noise, and then attempted to cut his wrists with his own fingernails.
Instead of providing conditions which will allow the boy to sleep, providing some basic human comforts, providing the promised radio to help Blade occupy his mind, or exercising compassion or providing any other kindnesses, the authorities are turning up the intensity of the torment and punishments that destabilized the boy in the first place. It is not a prescription for a positive outcome.
We’ve had it, and we will remain quiet no longer. This treatment of Blade Reed by the state of Indiana is in violation of Federal laws and international conventions, and we intend to bring appropriate pressure to bear to end this outrage. But more immediately, we believe that Blade’s life is at risk and we will be organizing a campaign and publicity to get someone in authority in Indiana to intervene before it is too late.
Stay tuned as we organize our efforts and keep a vigil for Blade. If you believe in prayer, please pray for Blade—and for his captors, as well, who must experience a change of mind, heart, and behavior.
Please visit this link right now and let your voice be heard!
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