SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs has returned to the practice of damaging his own health in prison.
Sunday night Jeffs, 55, was flown from his prison unit in Palestine, Texas, more than 45 miles away to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler because of poor nourishment and other conditions.
"He indicated he was not on a hunger strike but fasting," Jason Clark, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman, said in an email response to questions.
Michelle Lyons, a TDCJ spokeswoman, said Jeffs has other medical conditions that need tending.
"Jeffs is currently in critical but stable condition," she said in an email. "Jeffs has not been eating/taking in fluids as he should."
The TDCJ spokespeople said they couldn't comment on other medical conditions because of confidentiality. Prisons have the authority to administer forced feeding if necessary for the inmates' protection, Clark said.
"The agency does have policies in place allowing officials to administer fluids and nutrients if it's deemed medical necessary," Clark said.
Leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Jeffs was sentenced Aug. 9 to life in prison after a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting two of his underage "spiritual wives." He was being held in solitary confinement in the Powledge Unit of Texas' prison system.
While he was in prison in Mohave County, Ariz., from 2008 to 2010 on two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, Jeffs practiced "ascetic malnourishment" and was similarly hospitalized.
He also had a history of fasting during incarceration in Utah after he was arrested as a fugitive felon in Nevada in 2006. Jeffs went on periodic fasts while an inmate at the Washington County, Utah jail, but he never underwent hospitalization for fasting, Chief Deputy for the Washington County Sheriff's Office Jake Schultz said.
He did go to the hospital for other medical conditions that can't be disclosed, Schultz said.
"He was difficult to manage in that he had a lot of special needs to be met, but as far as behavior, he really wasn't a problem at all," Schultz said.
When the Arizona charges were dropped last year, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith noted that Jeffs' significant medical problems while in jail, there including ones triggered by hunger strikes, were part of the reason for dropping them.
Smith's court motion to withdraw the charges said "it would be impractical and unnecessary to spend taxpayer money on this defendant unall all of the above mentioned circumstances."
Jail officials in Mohave County said he was on his knees in prayer so often that he developed sores.
While he was in Texas at jails in Big Lake and Eldorado before his trial this summer, law enforcement personnel said they hadn't had any trouble with Jeffs in that regard.
"He may skip a tray now and then, but he hasn't been any trouble," Reagan County Sheriff Jeff Garner said earlier this year.
Jeffs is scheduled to be back in court Sept. 9 for a pretrial hearing on a first-degree bigamy charge, state court staff said. That trial is scheduled for October.
(Matthew Waller is a reporterfor the Standard Times in San Angelo, Texas.)