A death row inmate in Tennessee engaged in significant self-harm, including castrating himself and slitting his wrists, during a major meltdown he recently had over a special food package that had been denied him.
Some time earlier this month, Henry Eugene Hodges, 56, became outraged when his request for a special food package at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville had been refused. According to institutional rules, inmates with a clean record for six months may request such a food package, but Hodges made his request a month early, after only five months of good behavior, and was therefore denied.
The denial supposedly sent Hodges into a rage, and he began smearing feces on his cell wall in protest. Guards then decided to deny him food altogether, likely to minimize the feces he could produce and then spread.
Hodges responded by slitting his wrists with a razor he had hidden. He also asked to be put on suicide watch and was transferred to an infirmary. His attorney, Kelley Henry, claimed that during his stay in the infirmary, a “high ranking correctional officer” told the person or persons treating Hodges that Hodges was manipulating them and that Hodges should be kept under suicide watch in his cell.
After he was returned to his cell, Hodges found a glass shard from a broken window and used the shard to cut off his penis during a two-hour standoff with prison guards. Hodges was eventually restrained and taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where medical teams were able to surgically reattach his penis. Whether full function has been restored is unclear.
Ms. Henry has railed against prison officials, suggesting that they had neglected her client’s mental health.
“He needs competent mental health care” and “is enduring ongoing psychiatric harm as a result of these conditions,” she said.
She also claimed that Hodges had been placed in 6-point restraints after 4-point restraints failed to prevent him from removing his catheter. Once he agreed to take medication, he was placed back in 4-point restraints but was still left naked on a thin mattress for reportedly as long as a week.
“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,” Henry asserted. She said she intends to file a complaint with the state, claiming that the prison had violated Hodges’ constitutional rights.
In 1992, Hodges was convicted of the 1990 robbery and murder of Ronald Bassett, a phone repairman, and sentenced to death. He is also serving a life sentence for murdering Michael Whisnant, a chemical engineer from North Carolina, in an Atlanta hotel room and another life sentence for stabbing to death Barry McDonald, an Inglewood nurse, in 1989.
During the late 80s, Hodges participated in homosexual prostitution, though he denies that he is homosexual. He also claimed that he had suffered sexual abuse as an adolescent and that he feared telling his father about the abuse because of his father’s homophobia. There are multiple reports that he engaged in homosexual relationships.
Ms. Henry claimed that Hodges has been diagnosed as bipolar and is susceptible to psychotic episodes.