Archive for February 26th, 2012

26
Feb
12

namaste

From the high number of visits and comments on yesterday’s post, I know you have been anxiously waiting for new word on the developing situation with Blade Reed and the Wabash Valley Correctional Institution. Thanks to your interest and to the energetic efforts of some dedicated people, I am pleased to report there has been improvement.

Last night Stephen phoned me to say that Blade’s attorney spent four hours on the phone yesterday with officials at Wabash, who moved Blade from the “strip cell” to a normal (slightly more comfortable) cell in the solitary confinement unit. We surmise the prison officials got wind of our nascent petition campaign because the attorney told us “they were too agreeable. Getting Blade moved wasn’t all my doing,” she said.

If you have been out to the petition site, you will have seen that we already have more than 300 signatures, which is a respectable overnight result. (This is only the first day of the campaign.) You will have also seen that our campaign director Melissa Higgins has written a forceful argument invoking US and international law, which gives IDOC officials a sneak peek at the world of trouble they could create for themselves by setting in their heels and resisting a humanitarian resolution.

We didn’t plan it this way, but today the Indianapolis Star ran a front-page story about Paul Henry Gingerich and how well he is faring in IDOC’s Pendleton high-security youth prison.

(Check out Bobby King’s excellent article and more than 30 photographs at: http://www.indystar.com/article/20120226/NEWS02/202260353/What-life-like-14-year-old-killer-tried-an-adult?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News.)

The contrast between Paul Henry Gingerich’s and Blade Reed’s situations could not be greater. It is stunning to consider the glaring differences between the circumstances of two of our boys, one placed in an abusive and shameworthy adult prison environment, and the other placed in a nurturing and praiseworthy youth prison environment—and this object lesson within the concentrated time period of a single weekend cannot be lost on IDOC officials.

I hope you will come to the same conclusions as I have: that first, adult prison is no place for a child, no matter how serious that child’s offense might be; and second, that IDOC does have it within its makeup and ability to do the right thing. Blade’s experience proves the first point and Paul Henry’s proves the second.

Blade’s condition has already improved since he was moved out of the “strip cell” last night. In a morning phone call to Stephen, Blade reported, “I’m tired, but I did sleep some last night. I’m still upset. I just wish they (the guards) would leave me alone. I just want to go back to D Unit (his original, non-solitary-confinement cell block).”

Stephen said he could hear some slight improvement in Blade’s tone of voice. “He sounded like he had a little more bounce in his step,” Stephen said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and keeping my fingers crossed.”

We want Blade to be transferred into the youth correction system so he will have access to the rehabilitation, mental health, and education services he needs to develop into a whole and complete person. If Blade stays at Wabash and continues to be treated as a throw-away kid, he will be transformed into a warped, damaged, and unredeemable beast.

I want to close out this post with a general admonishment to all of us. We have a tremendous battle ahead of us for Blade Reed’s redemption. It is likely to become very heated and, at times, even vicious. Last night and today I reviewed your comments, some of which were seething with righteous anger. But please let us not get carried away with emotion and disrespect those who would be our opponents.

We have law, morality, and ethics on our side, and I have no doubt that we will eventually prevail. But remember, we must appeal to the good which is within our opponents in order for them to freely change. We must always stand for What Is Right, not Who Is Right. If we want the prisons in Indiana and elsewhere to embrace a philosophy of rehabilitation and powerful new redemptive models, we must model that philosophy in how we wage our battles.

It is my profound privilege to be friends with a particular prisoner, Nathan Ybanez, who was incarcerated as a 16-year-old with a life-without-parole sentence in Colorado. He is 30 years old now and has lived nearly half his life in prison. Contrary to what one would normally expect, prison has transformed Nathan into a wise and holy young man.

In every letter he writes to me, he uses the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste,” which expresses the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us in the heart chakra, an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another.

It is my hope that, even in the heat of conflict, we will follow Nathan’s example by looking for and appealing to that Divine spark which resides in the hearts of our adversaries. This is an attitude of strength, not weakness, which cannot be resisted.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Little Peggy Marsh performing “I Will Follow Him”