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ACLU alleges Conn. inmate is being force-fed

Associated Press / September 23, 2008
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HARTFORD - State prison officials have begun force-feeding an inmate who has been on a yearlong hunger strike, his lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said yesterday.

Bill Coleman, 48, a British citizen, is serving an eight-year sentence for rape. He maintains the charges were made up and began his hunger strike last September, when the 5-foot-10 man weighed more than 250 pounds, to protest what he considers a corrupt judicial system. He now weighs about 139 pounds, said his lawyer, David McGuire.

McGuire said Department of Correction officials transferred Coleman last week from the general population to the infirmary at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers. Yesterday, McGuire said correction officials restrained Coleman and intravenously hydrated him with a saline solution containing electrolytes.

McGuire said the force-feeding violates Coleman's constitutional rights. He said Coleman's hunger strike amounts to political speech and that the Connecticut Constitution provides more protection for such symbolic speech than the US Constitution.

The ACLU is waiting for a bench trial, scheduled for January, to argue the constitutionality of force-feeding Coleman.

Brian Garnett, a department spokesman, said he cannot talk about any inmate's medical treatment. "All I can tell you is that we have a court order that allows us to take appropriate action to protect his life," he said.

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