Conn. wants to force-feed hunger strikers

Feb. 11, 2009 at 6:03 PM

HARTFORD, Conn., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A Connecticut court has heard arguments on whether prison inmates on hunger strikes can be forcibly fed.

The inmate in the case, William Coleman, 48, was a witness at Tuesday's hearing, The Hartford (Conn.) Courant reported. Superior Court Judge James Graham also watched a video of the preliminaries to force feeding, although the actual process of inserting a feeding tube was not recorded.

Coleman, who was convicted of marital rape, went on the hunger strike in 2007 to protest what he says are unjust laws. For months, he consumed liquids, including nutritional drinks, but the state got a temporary injunction allowing force-feeding when he began refusing liquids in October.

On the tape, Dr. Edward Blanchette, the Department of Corrections clinical director, is shown offering Coleman a cup of nutritional drink.

"I'm begging you not to do this," Coleman tells medical workers.

Coleman in his testimony said that the force-feeding is painful and that the videotape does not show him vomiting.

The Corrections Department argues that barring force-feeding would free inmates to use hunger strikes to blackmail the prison system.

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