Hunger Strike Inmate Appeal Before State Supreme Court

William Coleman has refused solid foods for 4 years

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Hunger Strike Inmate Appeal Before State Supreme Court
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Hunger Strike Inmate Appeal Before State Supreme Court

 On Tuesday, the State Supreme Court will hear an appeal by an inmate who is challenging the Department of Correction for force feeding him during his hunger strike.

As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, William Coleman believes the force feedings violate his rights to free speech and to refuse medical treatment.

Coleman is in jail for spousal rape but he says he's innocent. And so he began refusing solid food in 2007 to call attention to what he describes as a corrupt judicial system. But after he lost 100 pounds and his health deteriorated, the state Department of Correction went to court and was granted an injunction allowing prison medical staff to force-feed Coleman when necessary.

The ACLU of Connecticut is representing Coleman in his appeal of that injunction.  Attorney David McGuire says the state Supreme Court should look to international law when considering the appeal.

"Forcefeeding a competent detainee violates international human rights.  We also seek to have the Supreme Court to look to the law in sister countries like the UK and Canada. Both of those countries prohibit the forcefeeding of competent prisoners on a hunger strike."

McGuire says there are just a handful of cases nationwide involving prisoners on hunger strikes. Some courts have agreed that an individual has the right to refuse food in protest while other decisions have granted prisons the right to force feed inmates.

for WNPR I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil