Neglected prisoner gets $15.5 million after serving 22 months in solitary

Stephen Slivin at the time of his booking (left) and his release (right)
Stephen Slivin at the time of his booking (left) and his release (right)

Stephen Slevin spent 22 months in solitary confinement in a New Mexico jail. During that time, his mental health deteriorated, fungus grew on his skin, and he was forced to pull his own tooth after being denied access to a dentist. A recent settlement with Dona Ana County resulted in Slevin receiving $15.5 million.

Initially, Slevin was awarded $22 million by a jury, but Dona Ana County appealed. The two parties reached an agreement this week. 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."

During his 22 months in solitary confinement, Slevin developed bedsores and lost 50 pounds. The ordeal began in 2005 when he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and stealing a car, which he says he borrowed from a friend. Slevin was never brought before a judge nor was he officially convicted of any crime. He said he wrote letters, begging for help with his depression. The before and after photos show the effect the 22 months of neglect had.

"Why they did what they did, I'll never know," Slevin told KOB4-TV. "Walking by me, watching me deteriorate day after day after day, and they did nothing at all to get me help."

Slevin's attorney said his client was battling depression at the time of his arrest. His health woes continue. He was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. He also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder due to his time in jail.

Jess Williams, Dona Ana County's public information director, told NBC News that the jail is making an effort to improve the way it treats prisoners with mental illness.