In 2005, 58 year old Steven Slevin was suspected of driving a stolen car while intoxicated and was arrested in New Mexico. Apparently, Slevin was never brought before a judge but was imprisoned for 22 months. This federal rights case was one of the biggest in the country’s history, enticing intense media coverage and many questions about Steven Slevin’s sentencing.
The circumstances involving his arrest and imprisonment remain unclear. Slevin has released statements that the car was not stolen, but belonged to a friend. According to Slevin’s attorney, he was put in solitary confinement after claims were made by jail employees that Slevin might be suicidal. While in confinement, Slevin was denied necessary medical attention. He suffered from bedsores, tooth decay and his mental health severely declined. He even developed a skin fungus that went continually untreated.
In court, Slevin relayed appalling stories in which guards ignored his desperate requests. He allegedly lost 50 lbs in those 22 months and described an instance in which he was forced to pull his own tooth because the jail denied him access to a dentist.
Slevin claims to have written dozens of letters begging for help with his depression, all of which went unanswered. Depression is a disease that he battled with before his arrest, but that became dire during confinement. Today, Slevin suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and it is unlikely that he will ever not need his depression medication. He was also recently diagnosed with lung cancer.
Slevin and his attorney, Matt Coyte recently reached a settlement with the Dona Ana County jail. Ultimately, Slevin was awarded $15.5 million and his DWI charges were dropped. The original agreement was $22 million but the jail facility appealed the verdict, resulting in the final amount. However, the physical and emotional affects of his time spent at Dona Ana County are long lasting. Coyte claims that money gained by Slevin will never fix what was broken during his unjust imprisonment.
Dona Ana County maintains that Slevin’s criminal background was what led to his imprisonment. The jail also alleges that Slevin was given an opportunity to leave solitary confinement and move to a normal cell but Slevin did not take advantage of the opportunity. Although Dona Ana County has put a lot of funding into better staff management and prisoner medical services since Slevin’s stay, they have sworn to give better service to future inmates.