Stephen Slevin Awarded $15.5 Million for Spending Two Years in Solitary Confinement for DWI

| by Michael Allen
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Stephen Slevin was driving across country in 2005 when he found himself thrown in the Dona Ana County, New Mexico jail for DWI. Slevin spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.

According to, Slevin recently won $15.5 million in one of the largest prisoner civil rights awards in U.S. history.

The pictures to the right show Slevin in 2005 and 2007, before and after his imprisonment.

Slevin was depressed in 2005 when he decided to drive across the country. After being pulled over in Dona Ana County, New Mexico, on Aug. 24 2005, Slevin was arrested on aggravated DWI charges and for driving a vehicle that he did not own.

By piecing together documents and records available, Slevin's lawyer lawyer Matt Coyte said he discovered that after his arrest, Slevin was placed in padded cell in the jail's floor, naked with only a suicide smock on.

Slevin was then placed in an observation cell with its own shower, toilet and a window so he could be observed. He was then transferred to solitary confinement, where he would spend the next 22 months.

Jess Williams, the Doña Ana County director of public information, told "He was placed in administrative segregation at his request. He did not want to be in the general population."

From January 2006 until May of 2007, "he just rocked back and forth," in his solitary confinement cell, Coyte said.

Slevin would only get out of his small cell, a few times every month. After that, there were periods up to four months when he did not leave. He was given food and medication during these periods, but was not bathing. He had fungus on his skin and his teeth were rotting.

After numerous court delays, on June 22, 2007 the charges against Slevin were dismissed by a district court judge. Coyte said that he believes a judge who saw his case must have had pity on him.

Coyte successfully sued the county and recently won the enormous award for Slevin.