New Mexico’s Stephen Slevin has finally, and partially, received the justice due to him as an American citizen. After 22 months of abusive confinement in the Dona Ana County Jail, in which the 59-year-old was unconstitutionally incarcerated without hearing from 2005 to 2007, Slevin was initially awarded $22 million by a jury. In a settlement with Dona Ana County, his recompense was reduced to $15.5 million. The county refused to pay the original amount, claiming it excessive. Slevin was denied medical or dental care during his imprisonment, even apparently being forced to yank one of his own teeth as an alternative. His mental health is reported to have deteriorated significantly due to his prolonged and cruel and unusual solitary confinement.
According to NBC News, Slevin’s attorney Matt Coyte said his client’s “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.”
“Why they did what they did, I’ll never know,” Slevin told local KOB4 television. “Walking by me, watching me deteriorate day after day after day, and they did nothing at all to get me help.”
Slevin was originally arrested in August 2005 on charges of DWI and auto theft. Slevin claimed the car was given to him by a friend. Officers purportedly believed he was suicidal and confined him to a padded cell for three days according to Coyte. He never saw a court room during the time of his imprisonment.
According to court documents, Slevin developed skin fungus and bed sores because he was deprived of proper bathing. His toe nails supposedly grew so long that they curled around his foot. As mentioned, his dental and mental health became a serious issue.
In 2007, Slevin was sent to a mental health facility for psychiatric review. He was then returned to solitary confinement preceding his release. The initial charges were eventually dropped since Slevin was judged incompetent to defend himself.
At the time of Slevin’s release, local officials refused to comment on allegations that he was mistreated, or that his 5th and 14th amendment rights had been violated. The Dona Ana County Jail says it has improved inmate access to mental health care instead, claiming its medical budget has been doubled since 2005. No jail employees were fired or arrested as a result of this incident.