Two years ago Stephen Slevin was charged with drunken driving but was never convicted. He was also placed in solitary confinement because it was observed that he was suicidal.
Matthew Coyte, Slevin’s attorney said that his client was so neglected he had to pull out his own tooth. He was left in his cell for months at a time. Slevin said he never saw a judge and charges against him were dropped in 2007.
Slevin stated that two weeks after his confinement, he was given a psychiatric evaluation but was then sent back to the Dona Ana Detention Center and placed under solitary confinement. After a year of imprisonment, there was a competency hearing but his case never proceeded.
Last Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced the $15.5 million settlement. The verdict is one of the largest in civil rights settlement history.
Slevin was a physically healthy adult when went to jail in 2005 and he came out in June 2007 with sores, a long beard, and he weighed a mere 133 pounds. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress from his physical and mental maltreatment by officials of Dona Ana County.
In a statement last Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners expressed their regret from the harm that Slevin suffered. They further said that Dona Ana County has since made improvements to the detention center. They said that there have been improvements made in staffing, training, and procedures.
Most of the money awarded to Slevin will come from the county coffers and part of it from insurance. What is strange is that despite the neglect to Slevin, it seems that there are no county officials have been held accountable so far.
According to Coyte, a $15.5 million-dollar settlement seems a huge amount but it still does not give back to Slevin what was taken from him. He further said that Slevin’s suffering will only be only worthwhile if it prevents other from enduring the pain and suffering that his client endured.