Inmate forced to take drugs will represent himself at trial

AP News
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Posted: Dec 25, 2016 10:43 AM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Should Connecticut compensate a prison inmate who was injected with psychotropic drugs against his will? A trial set for January, in which the inmate is representing himself, will decide.

The inmate, Kacey Lewis, was taken from his cell, shackled and subdued with pepper spray for some of the 42 injections he received from the medical staff at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant found the prison staff violated Lewis' rights to due process and ordered the civil trial, scheduled for the first week of January, to determine whether he is entitled to financial damages or other relief. The trial also will determine whether medical staff violated Lewis' rights against cruel and unusual punishment by being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and through the suffering caused by the injections.

Lewis, who is acting as his own attorney, has been imprisoned since 2009 on a 15-year sentence for the assault and kidnapping of his girlfriend.

A panel made up of the three doctors at the Northern Correctional Institution determined after a hearing 2011 that the drugs were needed to treat a mental health condition they had diagnosed.

In a letter to The Associated Press, Lewis insisted that he is not mentally ill and that the doctors "used false information and a bogus diagnosis to rationalize and justify" forcing him to be medicated.

An advocate was appointed to represent Lewis' interests at the 2011 hearing. But that advocate, Dr. Mark Frayne, was the supervising psychologist who had been treating Lewis at the prison, and was on the three-person panel that recommended his the injections. Frayne later presided over and denied Lewis' appeal of the ruling, according to court documents.

Bryant ruled that was a conflict of interest that denied Lewis his 14th Amendment rights to due process.

"There is no evidence Defendant Frayne actually advocated on behalf of Plaintiff Lewis's opposition to involuntary medication at the hearing, nor is there any evidence that Defendant Frayne made any effort prior to the hearing to investigate any basis, or fashion any rationale, to support Lewis's objection to being forcibly medicated," Bryant wrote.

Frayne did not respond to messages seeking comment. The state Department of Correction referred all comment to the University of Connecticut and its Correctional Managed Health Care department, which oversees the medical treatment in the prisons.

A UConn Health spokeswoman said the school would not comment on the pending litigation.

Dan Barrett, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said it is not involved in the case, but is monitoring it because it has concerns over whether the due process rights of other inmates are being violated when it comes to decisions about their mental health.

"The kinds of things he raises, appropriate treatment of mental health crises, are things we also see in cases, for example of solitary confinement," he said. "So the idea that we'll have some type of public airing of mental health care in prison is a good thing."