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Conn. high court rules prisoners can be force-fed

•  National News     updated  2012/03/06 09:38


Connecticut prison inmates who go on hunger strikes can be restrained and force-fed to protect them from life-threatening dehydration and malnutrition, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The 7-0 decision came in the case of 51-year-old prisoner William Coleman, a Liverpool, England, native who stopped eating in September 2007 to protest his conviction on what he claimed was a fabricated rape charge by his ex-wife. The court rejected Coleman's claims that force-feeding violated his free speech rights and international law.

Coleman's weight dropped from 237 pounds to 129 pounds by October 2008, and a prison doctor who believed Coleman was at risk of dying or developing irreversible health problems determined it was necessary to force-feed him by inserting a feeding tube through his nose and into his stomach.

The first of what Coleman's lawyers say was about a dozen forced feedings was performed on Oct. 23, 2008, after prison officials had obtained permanent authority to force-feed him after a trial in Superior Court. Coleman appealed the Superior Court judge's ruling to the Supreme Court.

Coleman resumed taking liquid nutrition voluntarily in late 2008 and returned to a normal weight, court records say, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut says he went back on the hunger strike last week.


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