Richard Hatch may have won “Survivor,” but he’s now dealing with his own painful reality — being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.
The ACLU demanded Hatch’s release from Barnstable County jail on Cape Cod. He was serving the rest of his sentence for failing to pay taxes on his $1 million prize for winning “Survivor” when he gave media interviews accusing a prosecutor of misconduct and said the judge in the case discriminated against him because he is gay.
Officials from the Federal Bureau of Prisons said two of the interviews were not authorized and sent him back to jail.
On Monday, the ACLU told U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton that Hatch has been held under “harsh” conditions for the last 28 days, allowed outside his cell only one hour a day to exercise or shower.
Attorney Michael Schneider said the decision to put Hatch in jail is a “clear-cut violation of his First Amendment rights.” The move seemed aimed at getting back at Hatch for criticizing the government in the interviews, he said.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Eve Piemonte-Stacey said Hatch was sent back to jail because he gave three media interviews when authorized to give only one.
“Prisons have rules, whether you are inside or outside or in a halfway house. When a person violates those rules, there are ramifications,” she said. “He’s not in federal custody for something that he said or something that he is.”
Piemonte-Stacey disputed the characterization of the conditions in the jail as “harsh.” Hatch was placed in the segregation unit as any other inmate would be after arriving at the jail, she said. He will be taken out of segregation soon, she said.
Hatch’s lawyers asked the judge to release Hatch outright or let him finish his period of home confinement, scheduled to end Oct. 7.
Schneider said the Bureau of Prisons has indicated that it may withhold 10 days of good time from Hatch, meaning he would not be released until Oct. 17.
Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said Hatch’s release date is still listed as Oct. 7 in the bureau’s computers. She declined to comment further.
The judge did not immediately rule on the request to release Hatch. He gave attorneys on both sides until Wednesday to submit additional legal briefs and said he would move “promptly” to issue a ruling.
Hatch granted three television interviews last month at his sister’s house in Newport, R.I. — to NBC’s TODAY show, NBC affiliate WJAR-TV in Cranston, R.I., and the NBC-owned “Access Hollywood.” (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft).
Prison officials said they gave Hatch permission for the TODAY interview only. Hatch’s lawyer said he believed the permission extended to all three NBC properties.