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Inmate at RCI still refusing solid food

December 22, 1997

Inmate at RCI still refusing solid food

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

The health of a Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate who has been on a hunger strike to protest his sentence has improved since the prison obtained a court order allowing them to feed him intravenously, but he continues to refuse solid foods.

The state Monday petitioned Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III to extend his temporary restraining order. Wright said he has scheduled a conference with attorneys for the state and Warren R. Stevenson for today.

The order, which expires at midnight tonight, can be extended for one more 10-day period, Wright said. He said he will probably schedule a hearing for the week of Jan. 5 to hear the state's request for a preliminary injunction, which would remain in place until a hearing for a permanent injunction.

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In the motion filed on Monday, the state said Stevenson's health has improved since officials began administering intravenous treatment and nutrition supplements.

Stevenson's weight on Dec. 17 was 118 pounds, up from a low of 107, and his blood chemistry was approaching normal, according to court records.

Although Stevenson has not resisted the medical treatment, he has continued to refuse solid foods, according to court records. The prison's medical staff said in the motion that Stevenson's health would quickly deteriorate if the order is not extended and he does not eat.

"The serious injury or death of Stevenson by his voluntary starvation would represent an immediate, substantial and irreparable injury to important state interests in the preservation of life and the maintenance of order in state correctional institutions," the motion states.

The state has attempted, but has been unable, to reach an agreement with Stevenson's attorney, Joseph Tetrault, according to court records.

Stevenson was sentenced in Baltimore County Circuit Court to 25 years in prison in 1988 for burglary, according to court records. He was given a concurrent one-year sentence for a weapons charge.

Since being transferred to RCI on March 7, Stevenson has accepted milk, juice, coffee, tea and water but has refused solid food and medical treatment, according to court records.

Prison officials moved him to the infirmary at the Maryland Correctional Institution on Dec. 12 after he collapsed during a routine check of his weight, blood and urine, according to court papers.

The decision to force-feed Stevenson drew criticism last week from civil liberties advocates, who argued that hunger strikes are a form of speech, and should fall within the limited scope of rights that prisoners enjoy.

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