Last Wednesday I received a disturbing comment to my August 6th post, “Adult Consequences,” about then-14-year-old Blade Reed’s experiences at Wabash Valley Correctional Institution, one of Indiana’s maximum security adult prisons. Tonya Meadows told me that the horrors suffered by Blade, as listed in my post, were “much milder” than the true picture as it unfolded.
“I was privy to the information when Stephen received it,” Tonya said. (Stephen is Bade’s advocate and legal guardian.) “When he read me the documentation, we both wept. We couldn’t sleep for days… Every time Stephen and I thought it couldn’t get any worse—it did.”
Tonya said I did not describe the severe injuries Blade suffered on an hourly basis. “In the prison documentation, it records Blade entering the prison infirmary with severe injuries from one attack only to return hours later with significant new injuries from additional attacks. There is documentation of Blade getting stitches in his head only to return later to receive additional stitches in new areas of the head.”
She encouraged me to ask Stephen for the documentation in order to paint you a truer picture. I asked Stephen why he had withheld this information; he had been holding back out of his natural disinclination to sensationalize any child’s story, but especially Blade’s.
Blade is autistic and had the mental capacity of an 8-year-old at the time of the murder. Brown County’s prosecutor Jim Oliver had succeeded in getting a 30-year sentence for Blade to be served in an adult prison where predatory inmates and violent guards prey upon vulnerable kids like Blade.
Stephen has been working for at least two years to get Blade reassigned to a humane setting, and he was worried that disclosure of the full facts would lead to more reprisals against Blade—especially by cowardly and twisted prison staff members who seem to derive perverse pleasure from inflicting so many torments on Blade.
“Well, Tonya’s forcing your hand,” I said.
“Yeah, I don’t know what to think,” he answered. But a couple days later he sent me selected infirmary reports. “There are more, but these are the worst ones,” he said. (So Stephen’s still holding back.)
Thus, with these infirmary reports added in and shown in italics, here is a revised litany of the abuse Blade Reed has suffered at Wabash:
January 6, 2010 – A much older inmate attempts to rape Blade. Blade fought back and there was a heated verbal altercation. Blade entered the infirmary with a swollen left eye, and several bruises. Blade was written up and received 2 weeks in solitary confinement as well as the loss of 15 days of his 2-for-1 good time.
March 4, 2010 – Blade had a temperature of 100, and refused to attend class that day. He was written up for his refusal and lost phone and recreation privileges for 1 week.
March 29, 2010 – A much older inmate raped Blade in the shower. Blade was punished with 15 days in solitary confinement, 15 days loss of 2-for-1 good time, and loss of phone privileges for 1 month.
April 16, 2010 – Blade attempted suicide by slitting his wrists. He was punished with the loss of 2 more weeks of phone privileges, and loss of recreation privileges for 2 weeks.
April 22, 2010 – Upset that his room was disrupted by guards during a search, Blade refused to clean up the mess. He was written up for refusing to obey an order, but received no other punishment.
April 30, 2010 –Blade retrieved a basketball during recreation without asking the guard first. He was written up for being in an unauthorized area, and lost recreation and commissary privileges for 2 weeks.
May 24, 2010 – Following horse-playing with his roommate (the first roommate he had since his arrival at Wabash), Blade was written up for disruptive, unruly, and rowdy conduct. He lost recreation and phone privileges for 2 weeks.
May 27, 2010 – Blade tattoos himself and cuts his arm. He was written up for disfigurement and lost recreation, phone, and commissary privileges for 2 more weeks.
June 7, 2010 – Blade was raped again by another inmate in the shower, and cut with a razor. Blade managed to get the razor away from his assailant after being cut, and cut the other inmate. Blade was punished with 1 year solitary confinement. Afterwards Blade wrote to Stephen: “The CCU (consolidated control unit) section where I’m at, there are two gang members with violent histories. They took a padlock to some dude and cut his face all up. All they got was 3 months here in solitary. I defend myself, and they give me a year in here. Why?”
July 22, 2010 – Blade shut down while coming back from the showers, and dropped to the floor in a fetal position. The guards said Blade kicked one of them while they were cuffing and shackling him (causing a bruised rib). Blade entered the infirmary with severely bruised ribs, several facial cuts including a cut over left eye which required 6 stitches, also a possible concussion. Blade never said who did it, but if you look at the reports from the guards from the same day, it’s a pretty good guess that it was the guards who beat the crap out of him. Blade was written up and received 1 additional month of solitary confinement.
August 2, 2010 – Blade attempts suicide a second time by slitting his wrists. He is punished with 2 more weeks of solitary confinement.
August 5, 2010 – Blade attempts suicide a third time by slitting his wrists. He is punished with 2 more weeks of solitary confinement. He was also written up for covering the camera monitor in his solitary cell, and was punished with 3 more weeks of solitary confinement.
August 8, 2010 – Blade entered the infirmary after overdosing on painkillers.
August 12, 2010 – Blade attempts suicide a fourth time by cutting his arm. He is punished with 1 month additional solitary confinement. Blade was also written up for resisting while being restrained by staff, and was punished with 1 more month of solitary confinement.
August 14, 2010 – Blade was severely beaten in the solitary shower area by another inmate. After he was injured, Blade once again managed to get the weapon away from and cut the attacker in self-defense. Blade entered the infirmary with a broken index finger, and several cuts on both palms (defensive wounds), knuckles, arms, and face. Blade was punished with 6 months additional time in solitary confinement.
August 17, 2010 – Blade entered the infirmary after overdosing once again on pain killers.
August 26, 2010 – Blade was assaulted and injured again in the solitary shower area by another inmate. Blade managed to defend himself and got the weapon away from his assailant. Blade entered the infirmary with cuts to both upper legs and groin area, also had issues breathing. He was taken to a local hospital where it was found he had broken ribs and a punctured lung. Blade was punished with 6 months additional time in solitary confinement and loss of all 2-for-1 good time.
September 5 and 6, 2010 – Blade was written up again for covering camera monitor in his solitary confinement cell.
September 10, 2010 – Blade was injured during a takedown by staff. He entered the infirmary with a broken nose, trouble breathing (ribs) and received 12 stitches in the back of the head for a severe laceration. Staff says Blade resisted takedown, but Blade denies this. There were no camera reports. He received a write-up, and of course was punished with 1 more month of solitary confinement.
September 12, 2010 – While recuperating in the medical unit from his staff-inflicted injuries, Blade was injured by another inmate. Blade tried to get the weapon away from the other inmate, and was injured again by staff trying to subdue him and “de-escalate” the situation. Because Blade resisted, he was written up and punished with 6 months of additional solitary confinement time, and placed on “habitual violator” status. Because a desk was broken during the “de-escalation,” Blade was also written up for destruction of state property.
October 15, 2010 – Blade entered the infirmary with a broken left wrist and immobilized hand suffered in an attack by staff. This was the second injury to the same hand, which had been injured previously at Johnson County Juvenile while Blade was being held there pre-sentencing. Blade submitted to wrist surgery, and while partial function has been restored to his hand, he will live with residual problems for the rest of his life.
(Mr. Oliver, does this please you? Do you still think justice has been done?)
What will parents in Brown County think of such “adult consequences”?
After Stephen got lawyers involved, the administrators at Wabash belatedly recognized they had a problem, and the sadist guards were fired and the repeated beatings and rape attempts against Blade ceased. It is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time that Blade was able to survive this ordeal.
I chuckled the other day when Stephen told me that Blade “has a thing for turtles. He loves ‘em,” as Stephen said with a note of bemusement in his voice. No wonder, I thought.
I cannot shake the image of Blade curled in a fetal position—turtle-like—his torso and head being beaten by those brutal, screaming guards. I can imagine Blade trying to withdraw further into an imaginary shell as the blood began to fill his eyes, as they beat him so bad about the head that he suffered headaches for days afterwards.
Blade loves turtles. What could make more sense?
The turtle is a prominent symbol of steadfastness, tranquility, tenacity, and strength in religion, mythology, and folklore from around the world. Its shell is thought to protect it from any foe.
Because it is a slow, peaceful creature, the turtle is often misconceived as “slow,” but in Aesop’s fable a tortoise defeats an overconfident hare in a race. In African fairy tales, the tortoise is depicted as the cleverest animal. In Tibet it is a symbol of creativity. In the cosmological myths of some Native American cultures, the turtle carries the world upon its back and supports the heavens. In Tahiti it is seen as the lord of the oceans because sea turtles migrate over such great distances in the oceans and the Tahitians revere them for this ability. In Polynesia the tortoise personifies the war god, and tortoise tattoos were customary among warriors.
Blade could not have picked a more appropriate animal totem to help him endure the unendurable while we continue to try to get him out of that horrible prison. Let’s hope and pray it helps him to be strong, survive, and go far.
Groove of the Day