When we last left 59-year-old Henry Reid, (the former director of UCLA’s Willed Body Parts program who was convicted of having sold some of the university’s donated cadavers for profit) was in Men’s Central Jail, waiting to be transferred to North Kern State Prison at Delano for “reception” and then on to whichever California state prison where he would finish serving his twenty-six month sentence.
Instead, last Thursday evening, his sister, Patricia Vetter, got a call from a sobbing Henry who said he was naked, that his clothes and glasses had been taken from him, that he had been placed in a “suicide vest,” and that he was to be transferred to the section of CJ where the “criminally insane” were kept, and that he would not be permitted visits or phone calls for the next six months.
When she could not get in to see her brother, and could get no information about what in the world had happened, Vetter began to panic. Her 6′ 5″ brother had no mental problems, only high blood pressure, she said. And despite his one-time spate of admitted illegality, he was a big and gentle man who had spent most of his working life serving honorably in such professions as fireman, paramedic, embalmer, and grief counselor.
Three hours after that first call, Vetter did succeed in getting one of the jail’s watch commanders to go to check on Henry. When she spoke again to the watch commander, he confirmed that Henry was indeed naked, but the deputy said he had managed to get Reid’s clothes returned to him. So at least that was something.
Still no word on what was wrong, and why Henry Reid was being restricted from contact with his family. Maddeninly, different watch commanders told her different things. One told Vetter that her brother was in “the hole, for extreme discipline” and would not be out for months.
After four frantic days, and multiple phone calls to whomever Vetter could find—including a jail psychiatrist whom Vetter’s psychiatrist husband knew professionally—the psychiatrist called back and said he had seen Reid and he was alright. Even better, the shrink, together with Reid’s attorney, was able to pull some strings, and got Reid permission to make a phone call….at which point, some of the real story began to come out.
Henry Reid was not in the psychiatric unit, nor was he in the hole, or being disciplined. Nor was he ever. He was in a protective custody unit, where high profile prisoners are held. Or as a friend of mine who volunteered to check on Reid put it, he’s in “highest security—where OJ was.”
It appeared that a guard, or guards, had simply been tormenting him when they took away his glasses and his clothes, and allegedly told him the story about being sent for six months to a unit for “the criminally insane.”
In his phone call to his sister, Henry said that while he could not tell her everything until he was away from jail and back at prison on a non-LA-County-jail phone.
Until then, here is what Vetter said her brother told her on the phone about his jail experience on Thursday night.
Besides taking away his eye glasses and clothes, telling him that he would be locked away for a minimum of 6 months in an isolation unit for the criminally insane, at one point before he got his clothing back they had chained him up, hands behind his back and shackled him to a wall. Then they put a tray of food on the floor with no utensils, implying he would have to kneel and hunch over to the ground and eat it with his mouth like a dog. But he was chained too tightly to the wall to reach it anyway. He said he was actually really hungry but luckily he later got chained up to some other inmate who had pocketed some cookies in his shirt and fed them to Henry.
So is this true? Would a sheriff’s deputy working in the LA County jail system physically humiliate and emotionally torment some nearly 60-year-old jail inmate in this manner for no discernible reason?
I have heard a great many bad tales from this jail over the years, some worse than this one. Nearly all of them impossible to verify one way or the other.
But perhaps Henry Reid’s story is an exception.
If the incidents are exaggerated, we will all be relieved. But if Reid—a person with resources and a family unafraid of the system and determined to protect him—was still treated the way his sister describes it, we need to know. We really, really do.