Drunk Driver Spends 22 Months in Solitary Confinement

By Nina Puro 03/08/13

New Mexico is ordered to pay $15.5 million to a man who wasted away in jail after a DUI.

Don't drink and drive in New Mexico.
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Dona Ana County, New Mexico, has been ordered to pay $15.5 million to Stephen Selvin, 58, who was left alone in a jail cell for 22 months after a DUI charge. Selvin was arrested in August 2005 in Southern New Mexico and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. But that's just where his troubles began. According to his attorney and court documents, he suffers from depression and was flagged as suicidal on a form, resulting in his placement in solitary confinement. There, he was reportedly neglected, and would go for months at a time without release, even for recreation or a shower. His hair and toenails grew long, he developed a fungal infection, and he lost weight. Selvin was briefly sent to a mental health facility, but returned to prison after two weeks. He was released in June 2007, after 22 months because, according to NBC News, "his mental state deteriorated to the point where he was deemed unfit to participate in his defense." Selvin was never convicted of a crime. A federal jury awarded Dona Ana County to pay $22 million in damages; a $15.5 million settlement was reached after an appeal.

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Nina Puro is a regular contributor to The Fix. Her poetry and essays have appeared in publications such as Third CoastPleiades and Harper Palate. You can find Nina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.