After being shot in the back multiple times by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, 29-year-old Jacob Blake is paralyzed from the waist down, says his family. Despite Blake’s incapacitation—and his clear need to continue to receive treatment—his father says Blake is currently handcuffed to his hospital bed.
Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, shared the detail with CNN on Thursday. The younger Blake is still recovering from gunshot wounds to his spinal cord, liver and kidney at a Wauwatosa, Wisconsin hospital, where he has been since being shot on Sunday night.
Blake’s father said he was “heartbroken” to see his son shackled to his hospital bed.
His uncle, Justin Blake, called it “insult to injury.”
“He is paralyzed and can’t walk and they have him cuffed to the bed,” he said. “Why?”
No one seems to have an answer, though the practice of shackling those in state custody—even as they receive critical medical care—has a long history in this country, and it is still ongoing. For instance, guards from local and state prisons and jails still shackle pregnant incarcerated women while they give birth.
At a press conference on Thursday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said he had “no personal understanding why [the handcuffing] would be necessary.”
“I would hope that we would be able to find a more—a better way to help him ... in recovering,” Evers said. “That seems counterintuitive. It seems to be bad medicine.”
The practice, of course, isn’t intended to help the detained person in any way. Ostensibly, it’s to prevent people who are of interest to, or in custody of, the state from “escaping”—logic be damned. What it explicitly does is reinforce ownership. Blake—and the many other Black men and women who have shared this cruel experience—is being treated like state property.
Blake has been hospitalized for five days because of actions undertaken by Kenosha police officers; he may very well never walk again because of the choices those cops made. But the handcuffs holding Blake to his bed make clear what Kenosha police and the district’s attorney intend for him once he recovers adequately.
Updated: 8/28/2020, 7:15 p.m.: The handcuffs have been removed and the warrant that led to Blake being shackled to his hospital bed has been vacated, his attorney, Patrick Cafferty, told CNN.
Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. David Wright explained earlier Friday that Blake was handcuffed to the bed because he “has felony warrants for his arrest from crimes he committed prior to the shooting incident.”
“Anyone with this classification level that we are guarding in the hospital would be treated in this manner,” Wright said in a statement.
In response to the statement from the sheriff’s office, Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, told CNN, “It shows how little class and compassion the sheriff has.”