State Supreme Court Rules Prisoners Can Be Force-Fed

Mar 5, 2012

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that state prison officials can restrain and force-feed inmates to protect them from life-threatening dehydration and malnutrition. Meanwhile, as WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the inmate who filed suit against the Department of Correction for force-feeding him is on a hunger strike once again. 

Attorneys for 51-year old William Coleman took his case to the State Supreme Court after a Superior Court judge ruled in 2009 that the DOC had the right to force-feed Coleman to protect his life and to prevent other inmates from also staging hunger strikes.

Coleman began his hunger strike in 2007 to protest his conviction of spousal rape. After more than a year, he lost well over 100 pounds and prison officials said they were forced at least one dozen times to insert a feeding tube through his nose and into his stomach to keep him alive.

His attorney, David McGuire of Connecticut's ACLU says Coleman's latest hunger strike is to mark the five years since his conviction. McGuire says Coleman is disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision and his client still believes it's within his right to refuse food and fluids.

"Mr Coleman is a competent adult like you and me. He's bringing attention to what he perceives as a broken and corrupt judicial system in the state of Connecticut. We asserted he has constitutional protections against violation of his privacy, his right to refuse medical treatment, free speech right in putting out a message through his protest. And we claim that international law prohibits the forcefeeding of a competent prisoner and cruel and unusual punishment."

McGuire says Coleman and his attorneys are now weighing whether to take his case to the U.S Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Coleman's release date is December 15 but immigration authorities also have an order to deport the England native so he and his attorneys are unsure what tomorrow may bring.