Dying for dollars

The authorities said that Mildred Brazil was not ill, that she did not call for help and that a jail guard at the Detroit Police Department’s 13th Precinct checked on her every 30 minutes. But none of these alleged precautions prevented the 61-year old woman from dying of heart failure in her cell in 1998. Nor will it prevent Brazil’s family from collecting $1.1 million from the city, which agreed to settle the wrongful death lawsuit for that amount earlier this month.

Brazil, a librarian, was arrested two years ago for allegedly threatening her boyfriend with a knife and stealing money from him; she was drinking at the time. Brazil’s cellmates said that she repeatedly complained of chest pains and asked the jail guards for medical help, but was told to “shut up,” according to court records. During the night, Brazil fell off a cell bench and onto a prisoner who was sleeping on the floor. The next day, Brazil was pronounced dead.

Brazil is not the only one to die in a Detroit jail cell. The Metro Times reported on at least five similar cases last year (“Death in the lockup,” MT, Sept. 15-21, 1999). As a result of the Metro Times story, Chief Benny Napoleon said that the department would make some changes to ensure that inmates receive prompt medical attention when requested. Maybe the $1.1 million will motivate the city into making sure the new measures are enforced.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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