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DWI Suspect 'Forgotten' in Jail for 2 Years Gets $22M

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on January 30, 2012 5:03 AM

Would you like to be forgotten in jail? How about stuffed in a solitary cell without promise of release?

Stephen Slevin was -- and his confinement lasted for almost two years. Officials in Dona Ana County still refuse to admit any wrongdoing , but a jury recently disagreed.

Slevin was awarded $22 million -- the perceived cost of his confinement and the degradation of his mental health.

Slevin's story begins in August 2005, when he was arrested for driving under the influence. In lieu of posting a $40,000 bond, he was tossed in jail. Prison officials stuck him in solitary confinement because he suffers from depression.

Though he initially received medication, the Associated Press reports he never saw a mental health professional. As his pleas for help were ignored, his mental health deteriorated, landing him in an outside facility for a few days.

After he returned, he was forgotten in jail yet again. He became delirious and complained of dental pain. He pulled his own tooth.

The recent trial focused on Slevin's treatment -- not the fact that he was never convicted. He claimed prison officials were grossly negligent in their failure to provide medical care, and thus violated the 8th Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

County officials claim the lack of care was Slevin's fault. He allegedly stopped communicating and requesting help from medical personnel sent to check his cell.

The jury didn't agree with this assessment. Stephen Slevin stopped communicating after he was hospitalized. When he returned to solitary, the Associated Press says he suffered from a second mental break. Is someone in this condition expected to ask for help?

The county disagrees with this logic and plans to appeal. Stephen Slevin was forgotten in jail, but the district attorney believes his verbal pleas for help were never ignored.

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