When locked in jail, there is not much one can do to protest something. One New Jersey inmate decided he would starve himself to protest what he said was a misunderstanding over a drug test.
William Lecuyer, 34, is going on a year of not eating any solid foods, resulting in the loss of almost half his body weight. He said, “After awhile, you’re not hungry anymore.”
He now only consumes a daily coffee with cream and a nutritional drink once a week. Before he started his protest, he weighed 230 pounds, but is now down to 120 pounds.
After five months of abstaining from food, New Jersey State Prison officials went to court to attempt to get an order to force-feed him and end his strike.
“If medical staff cannot immediately perform these measures over his objects,” the state argued on July 10, “he will suffer irreversible organ damage sometime in the next few days and eventually die.”
But the courts sided with Lecuyer and said he had a First Amendment right to refuse food. Eight months later, Lecuyer is still alive, though struggling.
His lawyer, Jean Ross, said his lips have turned gray and he has difficulty concentrating, He has also developed breathing problems since his diaphragm is collapsing.
New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office said no one has ever protested this long.
It all started when Lecuyer wanted to see a prison log book that he says will prove he did not break prison regulations two years ago.
He has four years left on his sentence after he was convicted of bank robbery. The state is fearful of giving into his requests because they do not want to encourage other prisoners to starve themselves.
“The prison administration cannot allow itself to be coerced by an inmate,” Martin Horn, former New York City corrections commissioner, said. “The point of prison is, when you’ve exhausted your legal options and you don’t get what you want, you have to do what you’re told.”
Lecuyer said 18-months ago he was asked to submit a urine test, when a drug dog detected something in his cell. He said he was forced to wait two hours to take the test, and could not urinate when he was asked.
He said the guard agreed to give him more time but then later changed his mind and charged Lecuyer with failure to provide a sample.
“I don’t want to die, but I’m not afraid of it,” Lecuyer said.
Though he admits to being a drug addict prior to entering prison, he is proud to say he has never failed a drugs test in jail.
Everyday, he drinks coffee with milk and sugar and allows staff to give him saline or electrolytes intravenously four times.