Man spends 2 years in solitary after DWI arrest

By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News

A New Mexico man who said he was forced to pull his own tooth while in solitary confinement because he was denied access to a dentist has been awarded $22 million due to inhumane treatment by New Mexico’s Dona Ana County Jail.

Stephen Slevin was arrested in August of 2005 for driving while intoxicated, then thrown in jail for two years. He was in solitary at Dona Ana County Jail for his entire sentence and basically forgotten about and never given a trial, he told NBC station Tuesday night.

“[Jail guards were] walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate,” Slevin said. “Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help.”

Slevin’s medical problems extended beyond his dental issues, he said. His toenails started curling around his foot because they were so long, he told And his countless requests to see a doctor for depression medication were ignored, he said.

He said his lawsuit “has never been about the money. I’ve always wanted this to make a statement.”

The $22 million, awarded by a federal jury Tuesday, is one of the largest prisoner civil rights settlements in U.S. history, according to

“I wanted people to know that there are people at The Dona Ana County Jail that are doing things like this to people and getting away with it,” said Slevin, who now suffers from PTSD and believes he will have to take medication for life as a result. “Why they did what they did, I have no idea.”

The mistreatment started from the moment his client was arrested, Slevin’s attorney, Matt Coyte, told

“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,” Coyte said.

NBC News

Slevin was depressed at the time, Coyte explained, and wanted to get out of New Mexico. Instead, he found himself in jail.

“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.”

Nor did they give him a trial, Coyte said. Slevin said he never saw a judge during his time in confinement.

After three days in a padded cell, jail guards transferred Slevin into solitary confinement without explanation.

“Their policy is to then just put them in solitary” if they appear to have mental health issues, Coyte told

Dona Ana County officials were tight-lipped about the case, refusing to answer questions about whether any jail employees were reprimanded or fired over Slevin’s treatment.

“We do not discuss personnel issues,” Jess Williams, Dona Ana County’s public information director, told

Williams also wouldn’t comment on whether the $22 million the county was ordered to pay would come from taxpayer money, saying only, “Dona Ana County will appeal the verdict.”

He said no county officials would answer questions about why Slevin was held for so long without going to trial, or any other questions related to the legal parts of the case.

‘Insanity builds’
While in solitary confinement, a prisoner is entitled to one hour per day out of the cell, but often times, Slevin wasn’t even granted that, Coyte said. He was deprived of showers and grew fungus underneath his skin. He lost his will to even want to get out and live in the outside world, Coyte told

“Your insanity builds. Some people holler or throw feces out their cell doors,” he said. “Others rock back and forth under a blanket for a year or more, which is what my client did.”

By the time Slevin got out of jail, his hair was shaggy and overgrown, his beard long, and his face pale and sunken, a drastic contrast from the clean-shaven booking photo taken of him when he was arrested two years prior.

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This entry was posted in Insanity, Mental Health, New Mexico, Solitary Confinement, State Prisons, Torture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Man spends 2 years in solitary after DWI arrest

  1. moorbey says:

    This is a human being that was put into solitary and forgotten. And he was not mentally strong enough and now he is in worse shape then his prior going to solitary confinement.

    • MisBehaved Woman says:

      This is happened here in my county; you should see the *justifications* our officials have tried to hide behind all the way through this case. It would be laughable if it weren’t so horrible. They have tried every way in the world to claim this was the prisoner’s fault…that’s just insult on top a mountain of injury.

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