One of our recent posts focused on the serious problem of wrongful convictions and wrongful imprisonment. We asked readers if Wisconsin should pass laws to provide more appropriate compensation to victims of this most serious injustice.

While any incident of wrongful imprisonment is unacceptable, one recent case is so shocking and so reprehensible it is hard to believe that it occurred in 21st-century America. In 2005, a New Mexico man was arrested for drunk driving and held in solitary confinement for two years without a hearing or a trial.

In 2005, the man was picked up for alleged drunk driving and brought to a county jail. Because the defendant had a history of mental illness, corrections officials placed him in solitary confinement. For the next two years, the justice system essentially forgot about him, and he suffered not only psychological trauma, but also physical injuries related to a lack of hygiene and lack of access to medical care.

According to a news article, the man developed bedsores, fungus, lost significant weight and his toenails grew long enough to begin curling around his feet. He once also had to pull one of his own teeth because he was denied access to dental care.

When he emerged from his cell 22 months later, he had a beard and a head of hair so long that most of his face was obscured. As a result of his time in solitary confinement, the man now also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological injuries.

The one silver lining in this reprehensible example of human rights violations is the fact that the wrongfully accused man recently received a $15 million settlement in his civil rights lawsuit. Unfortunately, he will need this money to address the physical, emotional and psychological injuries he suffered during those two years.

The man’s attorney explained that “His mental health has been severely compromised from the time he was in that facility. That continues to be the same. No amount of money will bring back what they took away from him.”

Source: Daily Mail, “Cancer-stricken man, 58, who was kept in solitary confinement for TWO YEARS with no trial after DWI arrest is finally awarded $15m after prison appealed payout,” Rachel Quigley and Louise Boyle, Mar. 6, 2013

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