NASHVILLE, TN — A Tennessee judge on Friday ordered prison officials to provide better care to a death row inmate held under duress after cutting off his penis.
Maximum-security Riverbend Institution must provide clothing and other necessities to Henry Hodges while he recovers, but may keep him immobilized for his safety, Davidson County Chancellor, I. ‘Ashea Myles. Hodges has been naked and restrained by his arms and legs on a thin mattress on a concrete slab since October 21, when he returned to prison after being hospitalized for his injury, said Kelley Henry, Hodges’ attorney. .
Henry had filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order against prison officials Friday morning after visiting Hodges in jail the day before.
Without an emergency court order, “the risk of irreparable harm is great,” she said. Hodges could get bedsores, develop sepsis and die, she argued. “And the lack of mental stimulation is torture.”
Arguing for the Tennessee Department of Corrections, Deputy Attorney General Scott Sutherland said the judge should not question the judgment of prison doctors.
“He gets 24-hour care,” Sutherland said of Hodges. “He is assessed every 24 hours to determine if the use of restraints is necessary.”
On Friday, Myles ordered prison officials to provide Hodges with clothing and care for his extremities and back. She said the prison had to provide him with mental stimuli and dim the lights so he could sleep. The prison was also ordered to allow Henry and any experts it hires to see Hodges and assess him for another hearing on November 14.
Myles barred the prison from “any treatment that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment” or violates Hodges’ rights.
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 a cell where, 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.
When he returned to the prison, he was placed naked and tied in a cell without “television, radio or any other means of mental stimulation” which is lit day and night. He was left to lie in his own defecation at one point and stopped eating, according to the complaint.
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.
Myles ordered state prosecutors to update him on Hodges’ health on Nov. 3. At the November 14 hearing, she will consider whether to extend or vary the temporary restraining order.