Stephen Slevin, 57, was arrested in August 2005 in New Mexico’s Dona Ana County, and charged with aggravated driving while under the influence and possession of a stolen vehicle (Slevin says that he borrowed a friend’s car to get him out of Las Cruces, New Mexico). He was jailed in the county jail with a $40,000 bond. Upon incarceration, Dona Ana County authorities noticed that Slevin appeared depressed. Feeling that he could be a danger to himself, they put him in solitary confinement, a dark, padded cell – and forgot about him for 2 years. During his stay, Slevin wrote many letters to authorities pleading to be released from his dark cell complaining that he was experiencing depression, hallucinations, and fear. The only response he received was a “handful of sedatives” from the part-time jail nurse. Slevin’s sister, worried because she had never received a response from letters she had written to him, eventually succeeded in bringing her brother’s plight to light and in addition to his release, a Sante Fe Federal Court granted Slevin a $15.5 million dollar settlement.
While in solitary, Slevin lost 1/3 of his body weight and developed bed sores and a fungal infection on his skin from lack of bathing. His toenails curled around his foot and his hair grew wild and unkempt (see before and after pictures above). Unable to received medical treatment for an aching mouth sore, Slevin was forced to pull his own tooth by hand.
As to why the county jail forgot about him, nobody knows for sure and the county authorities refuse to discuss the matter. One local authority noted:
“The jail was built to make money housing federal detainees. This is a border town. There are a lot of federal detainees from immigration issues, and the jail charges the federal government a particular amount of money for each detainee.”
His attorney noted that Slevin, who now lives in Virginia Beach, VA, will take lifelong medication for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from the incident.