Jailed polygamist leader's condition upgraded

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 31, 2011 12:13 PM
Jailed polygamist leader's condition upgraded

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The condition of jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting two child brides, has been upgraded from critical to serious in a Texas hospital, prison officials said on Wednesday.

Jeffs, 55, had been rushed to the hospital on Sunday and is being treated for dehydration and other undisclosed health issues. Jeffs had been fasting in prison and was not eating or drinking enough, prison officials said.

He is "awake and alert," prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

Jeffs is the self-named prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist breakaway Mormon sect that has a ranch in west Texas. He was convicted earlier this month of sexually assaulting two girls he wed as spiritual brides when they were 12 and 14.

Jeffs is being treated at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where the state has a secure prison hospital facility.

He was in critical but stable condition when he was transferred from an east Texas hospital to the facility in Galveston on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, his condition had been upgraded to serious.

Jeffs was rushed to the hospital from his prison cell on Sunday night after prison officials became worried about his condition.

Prison spokeswoman Lyons did not say how long Jeffs will remain at the hospital.

"That will depend on his recovery," she said. "When offenders become ill and need to be hospitalized, this is the standard procedure. We have some 155,000 inmates around the state, and sometimes they require care beyond what we can offer at the facility."

Due to the nature of his crimes, he is being held in protective isolation -- one of just a handful of inmates in the Texas prison system to be selected for that type of custody to protect them from other inmates.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Jerry Norton)