JUNEAU — An inmate at Waupun Correctional Institution who alleged that his court ordered forced feeding was being conducted for punitive purposes will continue to be force fed for up to six months according to an order signed by Judge Steven Bauer on Thursday.
Cesar DeLeon is currently involved in a hunger strike that aims to end a form of solitary confinement that can go on for years.
DeLeon appeared in court June 17 where he asked the court to cease the temporarily ordered involuntary feeding and hydrating that was being performed. According to the petition filed with the court, as of June 17 DeLeon had refused to eat for nine days and had refused water for two days.
The food refusal campaign, dubbed “Dying to Live,” which involves about half a dozen inmates, began as early as June 5. It is aimed at pressuring the state to end the practice of holding inmates for lengthy periods of time in administrative confinement, intended for prisoners deemed to be a danger to the institution.
According to the petition written by Waupun Correctional physician Dr. Jeffrey Manlove, “He (DeLeon) is showing signs of significant dehydration. He appears weak, gaunt and has an unsteady gait. His mucous membranes are very dry. He has a rapid heart rate of 132. His lab tests results are consistent with dehydration and metabolic acidosis.”
Manlove also wrote that DeLeon’s weight was down from 206 pounds on Jan. 27 to 186 pounds on June 17.
Based on the information provided by Dr. Manlove, Dodge County Circuit Judge Brian Pfitzinger issued a temporary order to involuntarily evaluate and treat DeLeon through forced tube feedings.
In response to the temporary order, DeLeon wrote a letter to the court where he claimed he was conducting the hunger strike for religious reasons and requested that the forced feeding stop so his religious rights would not be infringed upon.
In court on Thursday, DeLeon asked the court to play a video from his June 20 forced tube feeding. He said, “Based on that video, they are using the tube feeding for punitive, not medical purposes.”
Attorney for the Department of Corrections Gloria Thomas objected to playing the video since it shows a medical treatment, but DeLeon waived his right to privacy.
Thomas also objected to the video being shown for security measures. Judge Bauer responded, “I don’t care, I’m going to watch the video.”
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The video showed DeLeon being strapped into a chair with chest, waist and leg restraints. Three correctional officers then wheel him into a room where he is met by a nurse.
DeLeon says in the video, “It was only 10 days. This isn’t necessary.”
The nurse checks DeLeon’s heart rate and his lungs. She then lubricates the nasal gastric feeding tube and inserts it into DeLeon’s right nostril.
A correctional officer holds a cup of water with a straw so DeLeon can drink while the tube is being inserted to prevent choking. DeLeon claims that the officer pulled the straw away so that he would not be able to drink.
The forced feeding takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. After the feeding is finished, DeLeon’s restraints were removed and he was returned to his cell.
The nurse testified before the court that it took two tries to insert the tube and when asked by DeLeon about his interactions with the correctional officers she responded, “I remember you saying you were upset with the security guards. You two were having a bit of a struggle with the cup.”
A correctional officer present at the forced feeding testified that he did not see any of the other officers acting improperly during the feeding.
DeLeon also claimed that Dr. Manlove exaggerated his initial report saying, “I won’t refuse to drink water if they give me clean water, but they won’t give me clean water because they say if they give it to me that have to give it to everyone.”
Manlove acknowledged that DeLeon believed the water in the prison was making him ill and requested bottled water. He also denied exaggerating any part of his report.
DeLeon said, “When I refused water they could have given me an electrolyte drink but they went and got a court order for tube feeding.”
Bauer determined that based on the testimony of Manlove, if the court ordered force feeding was not in place, DeLeon would continue to refuse food and water which could cause him to suffer malnutrition and dehydration. Bauer granted a six-month order to force feed DeLeon saying, “I don’t find anything wrong with the tube feeding.”