Photo shows Steven Slevin on the day of his arrest and release. (KOB.com)
Photos taken of Steven Slevin on the day of his arrest and upon his release (KOB.com)

A man who spent two years in solitary confinement for a drink-driving offence without ever being prosecuted has been awarded $22m (£14m) in damages.

Steven Slevin, 58, from New Mexico, was forced to pull one of his own teeth during his time in solitary confinement as the guards at New Mexico's Dona Ana county jail refused to offer him dental treatment.

Slevin was arrested on 24 August, 2005 on charges of drink driving and receiving a stolen vehicle. His lawyers said that prison officers segregated him because he had a history of mental illness.

Although physically healthy when he entered the jail, Slevin made frequent requests to see a doctor and for medication to help treat his depression, all of which were ignored until just a few weeks before his release.

The lack of medical attention and complete solitary confinement meant that Slevin spiralled further into depression.

He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from what he called physical and mental mistreatment by corrections officials in Dona Ana county, in the southern part of the state, and will now have to taken medication for the rest of his life. The $22m awarded to Slevin is one of the largest federal civil rights settlements in history involving an inmate.

"This has never been about the money," Slevin said outside the federal courthouse in Santa Fe.

"[Jail guards were] walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate," he recounted. "Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help.

"I wanted people to know that there are people at the Dona Ana county jail that are doing things like this to people and getting away with it," he said, adding: "Why they did what they did, I have no idea."

His lawyer, Matthew Coyte, said that by the time Slevin was transferred to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas on 8 May, 2007, he had lost a third of his body weight, his beard had grown down to his chest, his toenails curled around his feet and he had developed bedsores, fungus and dental problems, along with having "been driven mad".

"It is the worst case of solitary confinement in the country," Coyte said.