On the left: Stephen Slevin in 2005, when he was arrested in New Mexico's Dona Ana County on suspicion of driving under the influence and driving a stolen vehicle (Slevin says the car was lent to him by a friend). On the right: Slevin in 2007, just before he was released after spending nearly all of two years in solitary confinement in the county jail.

Slevin was awarded $22 million in damages by a federal jury for his ordeal, which involved being confined to a small cell with no natural light for 23 hours a day. He sent letters to the county jail's nurse (credentials: bachelor's degree in biology), whose response was only to up his dose of sedatives. Meanwhile, his relatives were trying to find out: where's Stephen?

The answer, for most of his 22-month detainment, was that he was in "deplorable" conditions of his solitary "pod," court documents state, except for a 14-day period in May 2007, when he was sent to New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, N.M., for a psychiatric review. He had lost a third of his body weight by that point, documents say, and had bed sores and a fungal infection on his skin.


It wouldn't be until months later that Slevin's sister, whose name and location [attorney Matt] Coyte did not give, found out what her brother was going through: Forced to pull out his own tooth because he was denied access to a dentist, he told reporters on Tuesday. Toenails curling around his foot because they were so long. Basically forgotten about in his dark cell for more than 22 months.

"Basically" forgotten about, yes, though Slevin says guards walked by frequently. In May of 2007, he was allowed a brief stint at a "mental health institute," where he was able to shave and cut his hair; he then returned to solitary before being released — charges dropped due to his deteriorating mental health — in June. And Dona County? Why, it has a "disturbing history of settling cases involving the mistreatment of prisoners," The Daily writes.

[MSNBC; images via AP]