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People ex rel Dep't of Corrections v. Fort

September 15, 2004


Appeal from Circuit Court of Livingston County. No. 03MR51. Honorable Harold J. Frobish, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough


Defendant, Hosea Fort, appeals the trial court's May 2003 permanent injunction, permitting the Department of Corrections (DOC) to force-feed defendant to prevent his death. Defendant argues the State failed to prove a legitimate penological interest was affected by defendant's hunger strike. We affirm.


On April 18, 2003, the State filed a complaint for injunctive relief and motion for preliminary injunction, seeking an order allowing DOC to use necessary force (1) to monitor defendant's vital signs, blood chemistries, and heart function, and (2) to force-feed defendant if necessary to preserve his life. The State attached to the motion an affidavit from Dr. Arthur Funk, the medical director at Pontiac Correctional Center (Pontiac), which opined there was a substantial possibility that defendant could experience cardiac arrest, liver and neurological complications, or renal failure if his hunger strike continued. Therefore, Dr. Funk recommended defendant be force-fed. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the State a temporary restraining order, permitting DOC to monitor defendant and to force-feed defendant if necessary to prevent defendant's death.

On April 28, 2003, the trial court held a hearing on the preliminary injunction. Dr. Funk is board certified in internal medicine and licensed to practice in Illinois. Dr. Funk stated defendant has been on a number of hunger strikes, with the current hunger strike starting on April 12, 2003. Defendant was previously on a hunger strike from March 18 to April 1, 2003, and from April 2 to April 8, 2003. The hunger strikes started while defendant was incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center (Stateville) and continued after his transfer to Pontiac on April 3, 2003.

After the issuance of the temporary restraining order, defendant was given oral supplements, which he occasionally refused to take. Defendant received an intravenous solution on April 18, 2003, for a short period of time. After administering these supplements, defendant's laboratory results were normal.

Defendant has been housed in the infirmary since he arrived at Pontiac. On April 17, 2003, defendant was examined by Dr. Kowalkowski, a psychiatrist, and he found defendant competent. Dr. Funk testified that defendant will die if he continues his hunger strike.

On cross-examination, Dr. Funk stated defendant suffers from a thyroid disorder, seizure disorder (epilepsy), and emphysema. Defendant had not had a seizure since arriving at Pontiac. Defendant is prescribed Dilantin for his seizures, which he occasionally refuses. Dr. Funk stated the seizure disorder is not curable; however, the seizures will not worsen with age, and the disorder is not a life-shortening condition.

According to Dr. Funk, defendant also suffers from emphysema, which is also not curable. Defendant's emphysema is currently stable, but it will worsen with age. Emphysema can shorten a person's life span. According to Dr. Funk, defendant's emphysema has not progressed, and defendant has not complained of any discomfort due to emphysema. Defendant's thyroid disorder is also not curable. The disorder will not shorten defendant's life. The disorder can be treated by hormone replacement. However, defendant does not require treatment.

Dr. Funk stated that DOC's policy allows an inmate to refuse treatment for medical conditions, even if that treatment is necessary to save his life. On redirect examination, Dr. Funk stated that hunger strikes are not considered medical conditions. Dr. Funk further stated that DOC does not allow inmates to commit suicide.

Defendant testified that he did not know why he was transferred from Stateville to Pontiac. Pontiac was "a death trap" for him because of a 1993 incident involving allegations that defendant tried to kill the warden. After that incident, DOC transferred defendant out of Pontiac to Stateville.

Defendant started his hunger strike in response to a routine shakedown of his cell at Stateville. During the shakedown, defendant saw officers removing property from his cell, and he "went berserk." Defendant was taken to internal affairs and drug tested. The test came back negative. Defendant was placed in "1-a" for three days in response to his behavior during the shakedown. When he returned to his cell after the three days, defendant discovered much of his property was missing, and the missing property was not listed on a "shakedown list." A week or so later, some of defendant's missing property was found in the garbage can outside of Superintendent Hunter's office. Defendant believes that the officers took the property during the shakedown and threw it in the trash can where it was later discovered.

Defendant spoke to his sergeant, a couple of lieutenants, and a captain with DOC, who told defendant they would speak to Hunter. Defendant also wrote Hunter a letter. Hunter responded that he would come talk to defendant, but he never did. Defendant contacted another superintendent and an assistant warden, who referred the matter to internal affairs. On March 31, 2003, defendant told the assistant warden that he was on a hunger strike in response to his property ...

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