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Attorney: Death row inmate on suicide watch severed penis

“He needs competent mental healthcare. Surely the prison can find a place to put him where he is not a danger to himself or others,” the inmate’s attorney said


Death row inmate Henry Hodges.

Photo/Tennessee Department of Correction via AP

By Travis Loller
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee death row inmate Henry Hodges cut off his own penis in a prison cell after slitting his wrists and asking to be put on suicide watch, his attorney Kelley Henry said Thursday.

Henry said she visited Hodges at the infirmary of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville on Thursday, where he has been kept naked in 4-point and 6-point restraints for a week. Henry plans to file a complaint in state court Friday alleging violations of Hodge’s constitutional rights.

“He needs competent mental health care,” Henry said. “Surely the prison can find a place to put him where he is not a danger to himself or others and does not have to be tied down like an animal.”

Tennessee Department of Correction spokesperson Dorinda Carter did not immediately have a comment Thursday morning.

Hodges became upset earlier this month and began smearing feces in his cell after prison officials refused to let him have a special food package he had ordered because he had clear conduct for only the previous five months, rather than the required six months, Henry said. A guard then decided to stop feeding him in order to get him to stop smearing feces, she said. On Oct. 7, Hodges slit his wrists with a razor he had in his cell, Henry said.

He was taken to the infirmary where he asked to be put on suicide watch, Henry said. A “high-ranking correctional officer” told the person treating Hodges that he was manipulating them and could be put on suicide watch back in his cell, she said. He was taken back to his cell where there was broken glass from a window he had broken as well as other razors that he had hidden.

“He used that to completely sever his penis,” Henry said.

It all happened within about a two-hour period, Henry said.

Hodges was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where surgeons reattached his penis. After a couple of weeks in the hospital, he was returned to the prison, where he has been confined to a thin mattress on top of a concrete block and can barely move because of the restraints.

Hodges was first put in 4-point restraints but was able to remove a hand and rip out his catheter, Henry said. Then he was placed in 6-point restraints, that included restraints at his biceps. When he agreed to take medication, he was returned to the 4-point restraints. However, he has not been allowed to walk or leave the bed at all.

Hodges has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder mixed type with psychotic episodes, Henry said. He has taken medication in the past after a psychotic episode, but then stopped, she said.

“He is enduring ongoing psychiatric harm as a result of these conditions,” Henry said. Hodges is also on hunger strike, she said.

Henry has tried to speak to Correction officials about Hodges, but was told she needs to speak to General Counsel Debbie Inglis, who is out on leave.

Hodges was sentenced to death in 1992 by a Nashville jury that found him guilty of murdering telephone repairman Ronald Bassett in May 1990. He also was sentenced to 40 years in prison for robbing Bassett.

He was convicted of a separate murder in Fulton County, Georgia, for the killing of a North Carolina chemical engineer in an Atlanta hotel, shortly after Bassett’s killing.