ERIC Number: ED309485
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Aug-11
Reference Count: N/A
Prisoner Fasting as Symbolic Speech: The Ultimate Speech-Action Test.
Sneed, Don; Stonecipher, Harry W.
The ultimate test of the speech-action dichotomy, as it relates to symbolic speech to be considered by the courts, may be the fasting of prison inmates who use hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their confinement or to make political statements. While hunger strikes have been utilized by prisoners for years as a means of protest, it was not until 1982 that the courts attempted to define the rights of such protestors or to sort out the countervailing state interests leading to force-feeding, the state's usual response to such dissent. The central question is: How have the courts in recent decisions balanced the expression and privacy claims of the fasting prisoner with the state's interest in suicide prevention, maintaining order and security in prisons, and the state's obligation to protect the health and welfare of persons in its custody? Recent court decisions that involve inmate hunger-strikers who claim that their fasting deserves constitutional protection as symbolic speech and that force-feeding amounts to an invasion of privacy indicate that the balance has tipped strongly in favor of prison officials who carry out state interests. It is also evident from recent cases that when free expression consists largely of conduct, the courts feel that the state has a broad power to regulate such conduct without infringing upon First Amendment protection. (Eighty-eight notes are included.) (MS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: First Amendment