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Topless activist on hunger strike in New Jersey jail

By David Dankwa

SOMERSET, New Jersey (Reuters) - An activist for the right of women to go topless who is serving a 16-day sentence related to an arrest for topless sunbathing is set to be released by the end of the week from a New Jersey jail, where she is currently on a hunger strike, officials said.

Phoenix Feeley, a New York resident, is serving the sentence in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution for refusing to pay $816 in fines in connection with her 2008 arrest at a beach in Spring Lake where she was sunbathing topless in violation of a town ordinance in an act of civil disobedience.

Monmouth County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cynthia Scott declined to provide the exact day Feeley will be released, although August 16 marks the end of the sentence imposed by a municipal judge.

Scott said Feeley is currently in the correctional facility's infirmary and on constant watch because she has not eaten in nine days, choosing to only drink water.

"Her vitals are being checked regularly and she remains in good health," Scott said, adding that Feeley was offered an organic supplement but declined to take it.

Feeley is a member of GoTopless, an organization that is campaigning for the right of women to go topless in public on the basis of gender equality. According to the organization, New Jersey is one of about a dozen states in the country with ambiguous topless laws. Three states - Indiana, Utah and Tennessee - have outright bans on women going shirtless in public.

This is not the first time Feeley's topless agenda has brushed with the law. Seven years ago she was arrested in New York for baring her chest on the streets. She sued and won a lawsuit against the New York Police Department. It is now legal in New York for a woman, as well as a man, to go topless in public for noncommercial activity.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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