For 16 months, Connecticut inmate William Coleman has been wasting away in state prisons on a hunger strike, says the Hartford Courant. The former soccer coach lost 125 pounds, sustaining himself on liquids, before alarmed corrections officials restrained and force-fed him. Coleman, 48, was convicted of spousal rape and sentenced to eight years in prison. He says he does not want to die. Still he insists he is willing to starve himself to death to protest what he describes as a corrupt judicial system. Officials have no intention of letting that happen.
In a hearing that begins Thursday, Judge James Graham will hear arguments that pit First Amendment and privacy rights – including the right to refuse medical treatment – against the state’s interest in preventing suicide, maintaining control of its prisons, and resisting inmate coercion. Correction Commissioner Theresa Lantz wants the judge to make permanent a temporary injunction he issued last year allowing the state to force-feed Coleman. Coleman’s attorneys say his protest is in the tradition of hunger strikes by women suffragettes in the early part of the 20th century and by Mahatma Gandhi in India’s struggle for independence from Britain. In recent years, detainees at Guantanamo Bay have staged hunger strikes to protest conditions.