Open Wide: Prisoner Force-Feeding Case Begins

The DOC and ACLU spent hours discussing bodily functions, in court battle

A British man serving an eight-year sentence in Connecticut for rape refuses to eat prison grub.

His jailers want him to force him to eat because they are supposed to keep folks in their care safe.

The ACLU says to eat or not to eat is the inmate’s decision to make. Now a judge has to decide who has to power to decide what happens to the man’s stomach.

Testimony in the case of William Coleman has begun. Thursday, experts spent hours digging into information about bodily functions, weight loss and what the DOC has done to try getting Coleman to eat.

Coleman, 48, has lost nearly 80 pounds since starting his hunger strike in September 2007. He has refused solid foods since September 2007 and calls his hunger strike a protest against alleged corruption in the judicial system.

The state Department of Correction is arguing that it is obligated to ensure the physical well being of inmates and wants the OK to force feed Coleman.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut claims the DOC is violating Coleman's rights to exercise free speech and refuse medical treatment and is suing on his behalf.

Edward Blanchette, the corrections department's clinical director, said Coleman weighed about 237 pounds when his hunger strike started and was down to 155 by January 2008. His current weight had not been disclosed in testimony by mid-morning.

Coleman attended Thursday's hearing with the ACLU and private attorneys, appearing gaunt as he sat wearing leg irons and taking voluminous notes.

Prison officials have a court order allowing them to force-feed Coleman when they determine his health is in danger. The ACLU says he has been force-fed at least 12 times.

Coleman, a native of Liverpool, England, is the former women's soccer coach at Central Connecticut State University. He has lost several attempts to appeal his 2002 rape conviction.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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