Jury Awards $22 Million to Stephen Slevin, New Mexico Man who Rotted in Solitary Confinement for Two Years Without Trial after DUI Arrest
A New Mexico man who was jailed for two years without trial in a solitary confinement hellhole over a drunk driving arrest has been awarded $22 million by a federal jury.
The Daily Mail and KOB Eyewitness News 4 report that 58-year-old Stephen Slevin was arrested in August 2005 and charged with driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle near Las Cruces. He was locked up in the Dona Ana County Jail, and due to his history of mental illness he was placed in solitary confinement. There, jail officials essentially ignored him, failing to provide him with adequate physical and mental health care and treating him inhumanely.
“They threw him in solitary and then ignored him,” civil rights lawyer Matthew Coyte told the Daily Mail. “He disappeared into delirium, and his mental illness was made worse by being isolated from human contact and a lack of medical care.”
While in solitary, Slevin was forced to pull out one of his own teeth because he was denied adequate dental care. His toenails grew so long that they started curling around his feet. He developed agonizing bedsores, fungus and dental problems and lost a lot of weight.
According to KOB Eyewitness News 4, Slevin wrote more than a dozen letters desperately seeking help.
“He hand writes these letters, please help me. The medication is not working,” Coyte said. Slevin wrote that he was in a deep depression and could not eat, that he was having “weird and bizarre” dreams and that he “doesn’t know how much longer [he] can go on.”
The letters are all addressed to a “Dr. Don,” who isn’t really a doctor at all, but rather a nurse practitioner for the jail who was prescribing Slevin’s medications although he holds only a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Slevin was finally released after being held for 22 months as a pre-trial detainee. The charges against him were dropped. He then filed his lawsuit, but he insists that he did not sue for the money but rather to send a message that prisoners should be treated more humanely.
“It was never about the money,” Slevin, who still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his harrowing ordeal, told KOB. “We made a statement about what happened to me. Prison officials were walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate. Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help,” he added.