A prisoner in New Mexico was recently awarded $15.5 million for inhumane treatment.
Stephen Slevin spent close to two years in solitary confinement, and it doesn’t appear that the Dona Ana County Jail has any legitimate reason to justify their actions.
According to The Lookout, Slevin was arrested in 2005 for suspicion of driving under the influence. Police also thought that Slevin was driving a stolen car and brought him to the county jail. Slevin was never brought before a judge, and he was never officially convicted of a crime. But he was thrown into solitary confinement for 22 months.
Slevin’s attorney, Matt Coyte, said: “He was driving through New Mexico and arrested for a DWI, and he allegedly was in a stolen vehicle. Well, it was a car he had borrowed from a friend; a friend had given him a car to drive across the country … When he gets put in the jail, they think he’s suicidal, and they put him in a padded cell for three days, but never give him any treatment.”
Coyte said that his client had fungus growing on his skin by the time he was released. He also shed 50 pounds, saw his toenails grow and wrap around his foot, and eventually had to pull his own tooth after he was denied medical treatment.
Coyte also said that that his suffered tremendous mental trauma from the ordeal.
Coyte said: “His mental health has been severely compromised from the time he was in that facility. That continues to be the same. No amount of money will bring back what they took away from him … But it’s nice to be able to get him some money so he can improve where he is in life and move on.”
Coyte said that after Slevin spent three days in a padded room after his arrest he was moved to solitary confinement without an explanation. The jail, according to Slevin’s attorney, has a policy to “put (mentally unstable people) in solitary.”
Slevin got $15.5 million for his ordeal, but, more importantly, the jail has made some promises to change conditions in the prison.
Jess Williams, the Dona Ana County public information officer, said that the jail’s budget has more than doubled since Slevin’s initial arrest and that they are currently working to improve conditions for mentally ill inmates.
“We now have dedicated wings of the building, one for males, one for females, that are totally dedicated for closely supervised mental health provisions and care … We’ve greatly expanded our medical area and we have contracted out at great expense for both medical and mental health services within the facility.”
What do you think of Stephen Slevin’s story? Are you surprised that a prisoner could just be tossed into solitary confinement without a reason?