A forgotten inmate who spent 22 months as a prisoner in solitary confinement in a New Mexico county jail ended up with a long beard, bedsores, fungus, overgrown nails, dental problems, a self-extracted tooth, traumatized, physically weak, and lung cancer; all because of a drunk driving charge. Now, the New Mexico county that locked up the prisoner, isolated him from other inmates, and then just forgot about him for almost two years is willing to settle a lawsuit for $15.5 million, reported CNN on March 7, 2013.
Albuquerque civil rights attorney Matthew Coyte stated that corrections officials in Dona Ana County, which shares a border with Mexico in the southern part of the state, threw Stephen Slevin “in solitary and then ignored him. He disappeared into delirium, and his mental illness was made worse by being isolated from human contact and a lack of medical care."
In August of 2005, Stephen Slevin was charged with driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle. In 2005, the then about 51-year-old Stephen was “a well nourished, physically healthy adult."
After being arrested, the charges of driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle were never prosecuted. Steven Slevin was placed into solitary confinement because of a history of depression.
From August 2005 until June 2007, Stephen Slevin remained a “pretrial detainee.”
At some point of his “pretrial detainee” status, Stephen Slevin was transferred for two weeks to another state facility for a psychiatric evaluation. However, nothing resulted from the evaluation and Stephen Slevin was just sent back to Dona Ana County Detention Center and placed back into solitary confinement.
In 2006, the forgotten prisoner did receive a brief competency hearing but Stephen Slevin’s case was never followed up. The forgotten and isolated prisoner said that “things were so bad he was forced to pull his own tooth while in custody, and that his pleas for help were dismissed.”
In 2007, 22 months after having been arrested for DWI, Stephen Slevin was finally released and the charges dismissed.
In December of 2008, Albuquerque civil rights attorney Matthew Coyte filed a law suit on behalf of Stephen Slevin “claiming his rights of due process were violated since he was not given a hearing before being placed in solitary confinement.”
In 2012, a federal jury awarded Slevin $22 million but last week the New Mexico county that locked him up on a drunk driving charge, isolated him from other inmates, and then forgot about him for 22 months, agreed to settle the lawsuit.
On Thursday, the county's commissioners agreed to drop their appeal of the jury's verdict in return for paying Stephen Slevin $15.5 million instead of the original $22 million.
"The Board of County Commissioners deeply regrets the harm Mr. Slevin suffered during this period."
Stephen Slevin is now 59 years old and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Even though $15 million cannot bring back almost two years of his life, the forgotten inmate and his lawyer are hoping that their victory would at least "help bring a stop to the use of solitary confinement in America. Other countries recognize it as a form of torture, whereas America uses it as a routine method of incarceration."