Inmate who severed penis asks court to end restraints

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An attorney for a Tennessee death row inmate who cut off his penis shortly after asking to be placed on suicide watch filed a lawsuit against prison officials Friday.

Kelley Henry filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville, asking the judge to declare that the prison’s treatment of Henry Hodges violates his constitutional rights.

Hodges returned to the maximum-security Riverbend Institution from hospital on October 21. Since then, he has been held naked in 4- and 6-point restraints on a thin mattress on top of a concrete slab, according to the complaint.

“Mr. Defendants’ treatment of Hodges puts him at risk of permanent nerve damage, paralysis, pain, suffering, pressure sores, sepsis, malnutrition and death,” Henry says.

According to the complaint, Hodges periodically suffers from psychotic episodes. One began around October 3, when Hodges began smearing the walls of his cell with excrement. Rather than provide him with mental health treatment, prison officers began withholding food from Hodges, according to the complaint.

On October 7, Hodges broke a window in his cell and used a razor to cut his left wrist. In the infirmary, he told the care provider that he needed to go on suicide watch. However, he was returned to the cell with the window broken. Less than an hour later, he severed his penis from his body with a razor blade, according to the complaint.

Hodges was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where surgeons reattached his penis. Despite holding Hodges’ medical power of attorney, Henry was not allowed to see him during the two weeks he was there.

Upon his return to prison, he was placed naked and tied in a cell without “television, radio or any other means of mental stimulation” lit day and night. He was left to lie in his own defecation and stopped eating, according to the complaint.

Henry asks the court to order the Tennessee Department of Corrections to release him from restraints, provide him with clothing, and appoint an independent monitor of his mental and physical health treatment.

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

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

Travis Loller, Associated Press


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