By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was in critical condition on Monday after he was hospitalized for dehydration, Texas prison officials told Reuters.
The 55-year-old Jeffs, serving a 130-year sentence for sexually assaulting two underage girls, had been refusing to eat properly and is being treated for weakness and related conditions, said Jason Clark, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman.
Jeffs was reportedly fasting, but not on a hunger strike, Clark said.
"Warren Jeffs was transported last night to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler," Clark said Monday. "He is listed in critical but stable condition. Jeffs had not been eating and drinking as much as we would like.
"He had been eating and taking fluids in, but because he became dehydrated, his vital signs began showing problems."
Jeffs is the self-named "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist Mormon breakaway sect that has a ranch in west Texas.
Jeffs was sentenced on August 9 for assaulting two girls he had taken as "spiritual wives" at the sect's Yearning for Zion compound near San Angelo, Texas.
Clark said Jeffs has been suffering from a preexisting medical condition, though he wouldn't elaborate, citing privacy rules.
Jeffs' lack of proper nutrition in jail was not the result of a "declared hunger strike," Clark said.
"When our officials talked to him he said he was 'fasting,'" Clark said. "He was still eating and he was still drinking, but he was losing weight, and it affected his medical situation."
Jeffs is living in protective custody in a single occupancy cell in the high security Powledge Prison unit in Palestine, southeast of Dallas.
He is one of a handful of the estimated 150,000 inmates in the state prison system who is in protective custody, which allows inmates in solitary confinement to receive visitors, use the phone, and enjoy other privileges.
Jeffs is restricted to his cell for 22 hours a day, and released only for recreation and showering.
Prison officials say there are no threats against Jeffs, but due to the high profile nature of his crimes, and because the offense involved children, they kept him separate from other inmates.
Jeffs' prison unit is not air conditioned, but officials didn't know if that had anything to do with his condition.
Temperatures across Texas have been in the triple digits for several days.
(Edited by Karen Brooks and Jerry Norton)