Tennessee’s shameful and shocking treatment of Henry Hodges


A judge’s order late last month means a man on Tennessee’s death row, who slit his writs before severing his penis in early October, will finally get the bare minimum of care. 

Henry Hodges had been kept naked and in restraints on a thin pad on a concrete slab for at least a week. His lawyer, assistant federal public defender Kelley Henry, had been denied visitation since Hodges’ suicide attempt on October 7. 

But on October 25, the Beaumont Enterprise reports, Chancellor l’Ashea Myles told Corrections officials that while they could keep Henry Hodges in restraints, they must give him clothes, mental stimuli, and lower lighting to enable sleep. 

According to Henry, Hodges, 56, has mental health issues and suffers from psychotic episodes. When he began acting out in early October, instead of treating him, corrections officials stopped feeding him. Hodges then broke a window, using the glass to slit his wrists. After being treated for wrist injuries by prison staff, he returned to his cell, where he cut off his penis with a razor blade. Correction officials took him to a hospital, where his penis was re-attached and returned him to prison on October 21, where he was restrained and restricted to a cement bed without access to his lawyer. Finally, three weeks after his initial suicide attempt, Henry was able to see Hodges, and immediately file a motion for a temporary restraining order against prison personnel.

Hodges was sentenced to death for killing telephone repairman Ronald Bassett in 1990.

Hodges’ treatment can’t be construed as anything but cruel and unusual and a shocking violation of human rights, but according to the Beaumont Enterprise, Deputy Attorney General Scott Sutherland told the court Hodges was “being provided round-the-clock care.”

How broken can our death penalty system be that a state attorney general should defend this treatment of a human being, that an investigation wasn’t launched into the aftermath of a suicide attempt that ended so horrifically, and the issues that led to the suicide attempt were allowed to continue with no one held to account?

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