A Maryland court has ordered Maine prisoner Deane Brown — exiled in 2006 to solitary confinement in a supermax prison in Baltimore after he blew the whistle on abusive practices at the Maine State Prison — to be forcibly injected with insulin, if necessary.
A diabetic, Brown has conducted off and on in both Maine and Maryland what he calls a “medicine strike” to protest prison conditions. Recently he protested, by trying to refuse insulin, the dangerous way he says Maryland prison staff treat his diabetes.
Before his April 11 appearance in the Maryland court, Brown, 44, serving a 59-year sentence for burglary, filed a motion in federal court in Bangor asking for an injunction to prevent the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center (MCAC) from treating him against his will and seeking his immediate transfer back to Maine. The federal court has not yet acted on his request.
This legal move is a development in the federal suit he began in 2007 against Maine Department of Corrections officials, alleging their violation of his civil rights by shipping him out of state to a dangerous maximum-security prison. His exile, he says, was to prevent — and was in retaliation for — his providing information to the news media about abuse by guards of mentally ill prisoners in Maine’s Supermax, the Special Management Unit of the state prison in Warren (see “Torture in Maine’s Prison,” by Lance Tapley, November 11, 2005).
The judge in the Baltimore Circuit Court who required Brown to be forcibly injected also ordered MCAC officials to give him something to eat within 45 minutes after each insulin shot. Brown had complained that the prison put him at risk of a fatal diabetic shock by not giving him food for hours after a shot, and in his federal-court motion he wrote that during one forced injection — performed before the court order was issued — a nurse didn’t disinfect the injection site.
Joseph Tetrault, a Baltimore attorney who works for a group funded by the state of Maryland to represent prisoners in their legal complaints against the prison system, says he believes his client is now accepting the insulin shots. But he says Brown has filed “grievances” within the prison because he claims MCAC personnel are still not giving him food for many hours after his shots, despite the court order.
Tetrault says he might ask for a trial on the insulin issue: “Under Maryland law, a competent adult has the right to refuse medical treatment. We’re ready to litigate the case.”
Brown, an articulate but often-despairing activist who says he is devoting his life to fighting for human rights for prisoners — sometimes by threatening suicide — has become a national prisoner-rights cause. Supported by the National Lawyers Guild and the Southern Poverty Law Center, attorneys in Maine and Maryland are working on his federal suit.
Maine corrections officials and Assistant Attorney General Diane Sleek, who represents them, have in the past refused to deal with Brown’s complaints about his treatment in Maryland. Sleek says she has no comment on Brown’s recent federal-court motion, though she must give a response to the court by April 25.
In the motion, Brown also argues that officials shipped him 500 miles from Maine in violation of a federal court order dating from the 1970s — unearthed by the Phoenix last year, but ignored by officials — requiring that the state respect prisoners’ Constitutional due-process rights, such as by a formal hearing, before being shipped to another prison. His Maine attorney, Lynne Williams, of Bar Harbor, calls him “a political prisoner” (see “Maine Prison Bosses Violate Court Orders,” by Lance Tapley, June 29, 2007).