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Graphic videos show prison staff physically restraining death-row inmate

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  1. Court Access
The Associated Press, represented by an RCFP attorney, successfully fought to make the videos public.

Graphic videos made public in court filings last week show staff inside a maximum security prison in Nashville, Tennessee, physically restraining and forcibly medicating a mentally ill death-row inmate who repeatedly complains of pain and discomfort.

The partially redacted videos were publicly filed a month after a Tennessee judge ordered the Tennessee Department of Correction to unseal portions of videos showing prison officials’ treatment of inmate Henry Hodges inside Nashville’s Riverbend Maximum Security Prison, including their use of security restraints. Hodges is suing senior prison officials for subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment, among other things.

The Associated Press, represented by Paul McAdoo, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney for Tennessee, and the Nashville Banner had intervened to bring transparency to the case after the prison officials sought protective orders that would prevent Hodges from publicly sharing records he obtained in discovery and require those same records to be filed with the court under seal.

Hodges, who is on death row for a 1990 murder, slit his wrists and cut off his penis in his prison cell last year. The three videos released last week show Hodges’s interactions with prison staff after his return to the prison following his hospitalization from that incident.

In one 45-minute video, according to the Associated Press, security officers are shown strapping Hodges to a bed by his wrists, ankles, and biceps. Hodges becomes severely agitated after a worker gives him a shot despite his protests. He can also be heard telling prison staff at least 50 times that he is in pain.

“The officers make some effort to reposition Hodges’ limbs in response to his complaints,” the Associated Press reported, “but his arms below the bicep straps are visibly purple, and Hodges says they are numb.”

Read coverage by the Associated Press and the Nashville Banner to learn more about the newly released videos. You can also watch the partially redacted footage, though viewer discretion is advised. As the Nashville Banner wrote, “These are disturbing images, but ones we believe the public has a right to see.”

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.

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