I have to write about something and I don’t want to.

I don’t want to because I am dead tired, and need sleep, so blogging about anything is a supreme pain in the ass. (Yeah, I just updated an earlier post about Gingrich, as if I can stop him and his police state advocacy…)

But when I read the story that Glenn Reynolds linked about a guy who was arrested for DWI and sat in a cell — apparently “forgotten” — for 22 months, I found myself flabbergasted.

Sorry, but I’m an American citizen who believes in the Constitution, and who also happens to be an attorney, and stuff like this is just plain not supposed to happen.

A man who spent two years in solitary confinement after getting arrested for DWI was awarded $22 million for suffering inhumane treatment in New Mexico’s Dona Ana County Jail.

Stephen Slevin was arrested in August of 2005 for driving while intoxicated, according to NBC station KOB.com. He said he never got a trial and spent the entire time languishing in solitary, even pulling his own tooth when he was denied dental care.

“‘[Prison officials were] walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate,” he said. “Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help.”

Slevin said he made countless requests to see a doctor to get medication for his depression, but wasn’t allowed to see one until only a few weeks before his release. He also never got to see a judge.

The $22 million settlement, awarded by a federal jury on Tuesday, is one of the largest prisoner civil rights settlements in U.S. history, according to KOB.com.

He says he has no idea why they did what they did, and the alleged humans who run the county don’t return the reporters’ phone calls.

This just didn’t make any sense to me. I have sometimes succumbed to fits of paranoia in which I have wondered whether the United States (a country I have known and loved as early I can remember) might be degenerating into something like a Third World country, but a story like this hammers home the reality of that so starkly and bleakly that I just don’t want to believe it’s true.

So I Googled. Reading between the lines, it seems that the DWI suspect was mentally ill. Somehow, that served as an excuse to just let him rot:

Slevin, 58, was arrested in August 2005 and charged with driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle near Las Cruces. His lawyers said the prison segregated him because he had a lifelong history of mental illness.

Albuquerque civil rights attorney Matthew Coyte said his client then began to deteriorate while in isolation.

“They threw him in solitary and then ignored him,” said Coyte. “He disappeared into delirium, and his mental illness was made worse by being isolated from human contact and a lack of medical care.”

Slevin’s lawsuit alleged he became malnourished, lost significant weight, developed bedsores, fungus and dental problems and was not aware of his situation or surroundings.

He was transferred to another state facility for two weeks, where he was given a psychiatric evaluation and then sent back to the Dona Ana County Detention Center, where he was again placed in solitary confinement. Coyte said Slevin did receive a brief competency hearing a year into his imprisonment, but the case against the man never proceeded.

After 22 months as a pre-trial detainee, Slevin was released and the charges dismissed. He then filed suit, claiming his rights of due process were violated since he was not given a hearing before being placed in solitary confinement.

Photos taken before and after his confinement show dramatic appearance changes. The plaintiff said things were so bad he was forced to pull his own tooth while in custody, and that his pleas for help were dismissed.

It’s so sickening I don’t know where to start. I’ve written countless posts about the fate of the mentally ill in this country, but this incident really takes the cake. I’m glad he won, and if I were a taxpayer in that God-awful excuse for an American town which locked him up and threw away the key, I’d be asking why my tax dollars should have to be paying the $22 million, and not the sons of bitches who did this to him.

All I can do is agree with what Glenn said:

…these guys should have to spend 6 years in solitary each. But, of course, all that happens is that taxpayers get stuck.

Sovereign immunity” works that way.

The “sovereigns” play, while the rest of us pay.


(If there is a bright side in this mess, I guess it’s to be found in the $22 million jury verdict. That would not have happened in Zimbabwe, Iran, Venezuela, Mexico, North Korea, China, Mexico, or in most of the countries on this planet. But give us time!)