The production crew for Young Kids Hard Time: Bennie and Blade—which runs today at 2:00 pm eastern, 1:00 pm central, on MSNBC—has special permission from the Indiana Supreme Court to film anywhere they wish in Indiana’s system of youth courts and prisons.
Everybody knows they have friends in very high places, friends with career-busting power.
So when the film crew arrives, prison administrators put on their best Sunday manners and the guards who normally take so much pleasure in baiting and tormenting prisoners fade from view.
Even the prisoners, delighted with the interruption to their monotony the film crew’s arrival occasions, play along.
Today’s program shows a only vignette, a staged incident. It is a brief scene in the lives of Bennie and Blade Reed that would not have happened if the film crew weren’t there.
You see, even though Blade Reed and his older brother Bennie are both being held at the same prison, they never see one another. Blade is housed in the youthful offenders’ wing of Wabash Valley Correctional Institution, and Bennie is being held in the much larger adult section.
“Over the course of our filming, the boys got word that visits would be allowed, so we filmed them together for the first time,” producer Karen Grau explained. “It’s a sweet, poignant moment.”
What the encounter does not show is Bennie’s deep remorse for having ruined his life, and Blade’s too, as well as the lives of his victims. Nor does it show the seething anger that Blade still harbors towards his brother for having gotten them into this bewildering nightmare.
“It is hard to talk to him,” Blade wrote. “I want to just scream at him and cuss up a storm. I feel empty inside when I see him. He has said he is sorry to me every time we met, but it does not mean anything. In my heart I feel he doesn’t mean it. He hurt me, and he didn’t care. How can a brother do that?”
Today’s program does not illuminate the cruel, inhumane treatment to which Blade has been subjected—the rapes and beatings, the taunts and tortures by guards, the months of solitary confinement—that only exacerbate Blade’s autism and other mental disorders, and which have repeatedly driven Blade to the brink of suicide.
With everyone at the prison having been on their good behavior, you would have to read between the lies to see the truth. If fact, a photographer who was part of the production crew couldn’t see it and later accused me of having fabricated the litany of abuses Blade has suffered as reported in these Diary posts:
In point of fact, we have in our possession authentic documentation from the prison which confirms the truth of all my assertions. In following Blade’s travails at Wabash, we know that placing an autistic child in an adult prison (the staff of which is trained only to administer punishment, not treatment) can only have disastrous consequences not only for Blade, but for the sadistic guards who, until we attracted worldwide attention to Blade’s inhumane treatment, appeared to have been driving Blade to suicide:
If you (like the errant photographer) think our claims of torture and abuse are simply too fantastic to be believed, check out this article which recently appeared in The Nation, “Why Are Prisoners Committing Suicide in Pennsylvania?”, by investigative reporter Matt Stroud. It describes a cultural paradigm that’s endemic to the solitary confinement units of prisons everywhere in the US:
We are working very hard to get Blade Reed reassigned to a facility that is better suited to meet his needs. We first need to get the court that condemned Blade to the living hell of adult prison to recognize that a child who had the mental capacity of an 8-year-old at the time of the crime has no business being placed in a facility that makes no effort to rehabilitate its wards, but only drives them further into a dark corner of torment, despair, and hopelessness.
The original court in Brown County IN received testimony from several professionals who testified on Blade’s behalf that he shouldn’t be treated as an adult, but it did not heed this advice. Now we are faced with the difficult task of not only getting the court to do the right thing, but to admit that it previously made a grievous error in judgment.
We cannot carry forward this struggle without your help. Please visit Blade’s website at www.redemptionforkids.org, familiarize yourself with the facts of his case, and contribute as you can. We must end his nightmare now.
Blade didn’t kill anyone. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. And now the State of Indiana has placed him in circumstances which may succeed in killing him if too much time passes. Unless something changes in a big way, the forecast only calls for pain.
Blade urgently needs your help today. Please do what you can.
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