A man arrested for suspected drink-driving and held in solitary confinement for nearly two years after US prison authorities forgot about him has accepted a $15.5 million settlement, one of the nation’s largest civil rights payouts to anyone jailed.
Stephen Slevin, 59, who was never convicted, spent 22 months in a New Mexico jail cell, where his toenails grew so long they curled under his feet, he developed bedsores and fungus and fell into a state of delirium. He even had to pull one of his own teeth out because he was not allowed to see a dentist.
His lawyer, Matthew Coyte, said the ”very large” payout ”does not give back to Mr Slevin what was taken from him”.
”His mental health has been severely compromised from the time he was in that facility. 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.”
Mr Slevin was stopped by police in August 2005 and accused of being drunk and in a stolen vehicle. He claimed the car was given to him by a friend to drive across the country.
He was never seen by a judge and appeared depressed when he arrived at the Dona Ana detention centre, so was placed in a padded cell. Three days later, he was put in solitary confinement at the jail near the US border with Mexico.
Mr Slevin has left New Mexico and is being treated for lung cancer, not linked to his confinement.
Dona Ana County officials said that, at the time of his arrest, Mr Slevin had convictions in other states for robbery, burglary, drink-driving, receiving stolen property, firearms violations and possession of drugs.
A spokesman said no staff had been sacked, and the jail had made ”significant improvements” .