WARNING: Video contains disturbing images

When Henry Hodges, a convicted murderer on Tennessee’s death row, cut off his own penis in October, it sparked questions about the state of medical and mental health care at Riverbend, one of the state’s maximum security prisons. Hodges’ attorneys alleged that his treatment was inhumane and bordered on “torture.” 

The Nashville Banner and the Associated Press sued the State of Tennessee in order to gain access to videos made following Hodges’ return to Riverbend. In January, a chancery court ordered these videos to be released. After weeks of delay, the state turned the videos over with agreed redactions. These are disturbing images, but ones we believe the public has a right to see. 

What these videos show is a man strapped to a piece of foam on a concrete slab for days in four-point and sometimes six-point restraints that often turned Hodges’ arm purple. What they also show is a man recovering from surgery in an environment that often induces psychotic outbursts and screams. Ultimately, Hodges lost all use of his organ due to necrosis.

“Most of the health care stuff that happens in prisons is quiet, off the books. You don’t know what’s happening,” said Dr. Arthur Caplan, a renowned ethicist at New York University. “It’s a world left unto itself. It’s not really a hospital. It’s not really a nursing home. Keeping him going, running his appeals, getting him set up for an execution … if you’re really saying ‘save me money’ and keep him in the setting that’s easiest to manage him, it’s the psych place. It’s not the prison.”