Jailers: Nurse slapped inmate repeatedly, 'a little excessive'
Incident reports indicate that Hamilton County corrections officers believed an inmate was suffering a seizure or attempting suicide when they summoned a nurse from the jail infirmary November 14. But those same reports allege that Nurse Ruth Benjamin simply slapped the inmate and accused him of 'faking it.'
Monday, November 26th 2012, 7:07 pm EST
Monday, November 26th 2012, 8:53 pm EST
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Erlanger Health Systems will not confirm whether a nurse resigned or was fired after an encounter with an inmate she was assigned to treat at the Hamilton County jail.
But at least three Corrections Officers and a supervisor found Nurse Ruth Benjamin's conduct disturbing enough that they criticized her actions when they filed their Incident Reports.
Joshua Paul White, 27, is due to appear in court Tuesday on a contempt charge.
But his appearance when booked into the Hamilton County jail, just after 6:20 PM November 14, so alarmed officers on duty that they summoned aid from the fourth-floor infirmary.
"He and the nurse apparently had an earlier encounter," Sheriff Jim Hammond tells Channel 3. "But when she (Benjamin) got there, she determined he wasn't in distress, it was just the DTs (withdrawals)."
"(An inmate) made hand gestures that (White) was hanging himself,(sic) " the supervising Sergeant wrote in his Incident Report.
Responding officers found White with a sock tied tightly around his neck, reports indicate. They were able to untie it, and summoned Nurse Benjamin again.
"She appeared to be angered by the fact that she had to deal with him in such a short time," the Sergeant's report indicates. "(When she and another nurse arrived) she gave him a rather harder than usual sternum rub."
"It had to do, perhaps, with even a few slaps to the face," Sheriff Hammond elaborates.
Officer Jon Walker's report indicates it went further, writing that he "watched as she slapped White and told him to quit faking it. I left the area due to this action so that I would not have to deal with her."
"At this point, he was very much awake," the Sergeant's report indicates. "He (White) even made the statement saying "stop hitting me."
White's behavior continued to alarm deputies after, reports indicate, he was transferred, naked, into a holding cell used to evaluate inmates for risk of suicide.
"He began to hit his head against the wall," a Corporal's report reads. "Inmate White said that he was trying to hurt himself and would eventually kill himself."
The Corporal's report indicates he ordered White placed in a restraint chair. Subsequently, he was sent to Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute for evaluation.
"I think Nurse Ruth was a little excessive in her treatment of the inmate," the Sergeant's report indicates.
Benjamin lives in Ringgold. She has not responded to several requests for comment.
"She had no problems, she was just doing her job," her husband, Gervis Benjamin told Channel 3 Friday.
"I wasn't there, but from what she told me, he (White) was unconscious and she was trying to revive him."
"I can confirm this individual (Ruth Benjamin) is no longer employed at Erlanger," spokeswoman Pat Charles wrote in an email to Channel 3 last Friday. "Obviously since this is a personnel issue, we are unable to comment beyond that."
Sheriff Hammond has been unable to confirm Benjamin's status with Erlanger, except to confirm that she no longer is part of the contracted staff assigned to provide medical services at the jail.
"This is the first time I can recall something quite like this happening," Sheriff Hammond says. "Providing medical care in this environment is a delicate situation. It's a big reason we contract it out. We have to make sure both they (the inmates) and the staff are protected."