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Prisoner Gets $15.5M for 22 Months in Solitary

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 12, 2013 9:23 AM

Is there any real way to make someone whole after time in the hole? Stephen Slevin spent 22 months in solitary confinement and was awarded $22 million by a jury for his ordeal.

Lawyers for Dona Ana County in New Mexico, where the incident took place, appealed the award. But in the end, Slevin walked away with $15.5 million.

But is that really enough to compensate him for what he endured?

Stephen Slevin's mental health fell apart, as did his physical health, during his 22 months in solitary confinement, according to Yahoo! News.

Fungus grew on Slevin's skin, and he was forced to pull out his own tooth because he was denied a dentist. He developed bedsores and lost 50 pounds.

All this for a DUI charge. In 2005, Slevin was arrested on suspicion of DUI and driving a stolen vehicle. He claims he borrowed the vehicle from a friend. But he was never brought before a judge, and he was never convicted of any crime.

At the time of his arrest, Slevin suffered from depression. The guards believed him to be suicidal and placed him in a cell with padding. He was soon transferred to solitary confinement, as that was the jail's policy for prisoners with mental health issues.

Despite Slevin's horrifying ordeal, it's still not easy to bring a case against a county, or any governmental entity for that matter.

A personal injury lawsuit against a governmental entity involves a strict set of rules. For one, personal injury actions against governmental entities must be brought under a Tort Claims Act. For lawsuits against counties, these are typically embodied in state and local laws.

Failure to follow procedures in bringing a government tort claim can result in the case being thrown out. Usually, the first step is to file a notice of claim.

In many cases, these claims might compensate the plaintiff to some degree, but they don't always make the plaintiff whole.

Slevin reportedly receives support from his family and is said to be "doing well," according to NBC News.

As for the jail in New Mexico, it's made some corrective measures to ensure that this type of treatment doesn't happen again.

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