ACLU: Conn. prison’s force feeding violates constitutional rights of inmate on hunger strike

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ State prison officials have begun force feeding an inmate who has been on a yearlong hunger strike, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said Monday.

Bill Coleman is serving an eight-year sentence for rape. The 48-year-old British citizen began his protest September 2007 because he says those charges were made up.

He had weighed more than 250 pounds but is now 139 pounds.

David McGuire, an ACLU lawyer, said Coleman had been taking fluids and a nutritional supplement but stopped last week.

McGuire said state Department of Correction officials transferred Coleman last week to an infirmary and administered artificial hydration and electrolytes intravenously on Monday.

McGuire said he and Coleman fear that prison officials will next decide to insert a tube through the inmate’s nose and down his throat to deliver food to his stomach.

The Correction Department received a court order in January allowing it to force feed Coleman when it determines his health is in danger.

McGuire, who is representing Coleman during his protest, said the force feeding violates Coleman’s constitutional rights. He said the hunger strike amounts to political speech.

“Every time that IV is put in Bill’s arm without his consent, Department of Correction will continue to violate his right to bodily integrity,” McGuire said.

A bench trial has been scheduled for January, and the ACLU plans to argue the constitutionality of the force feeding Coleman.

Brian Garnett, a department spokesman, said he cannot talk about any inmate’s medical treatment.

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