What's Mom Worth?: When a Woman Became Deathly Ill in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Jail, Guards and Nurses Ignored Her Agony

Deborah Braillard, mother

Mom taught me to sew.

And I' m going to teach my own baby, Jennylee. Eventually.

Jennylee is a quick study for a 6-year-old.

She watches as I sew her Minnie Mouse costume. She is double-twice excited, though honestly, I think I like Halloween as much as she does, even if it is a gloomy time of year.

Come, sit here, Pumpkin, and watch now how I pin the paper pattern here on the cloth. You see that, sweetie? You cut this out while I trim the red polka dots for your bow.


You take a good look at these pieces and try to guess where they'll go. Mommy will be right back.

As mother and daughter work inside their little trailer, outside, slate-stained cumulonimbus clouds menace, gray anvil domes await the strike.

Deborah ducks, briefly, into the tiny, plywood-framed bathroom for a little pick-me-up. When she emerges, the sweetness of this moment with Jennylee does not escape her notice.

But lightning in the darkness overcomes it.

Deborah shivers in spite of herself.

Hey there, Pumpkin, here's the last part.

I'll just straight-stitch the seams, roll the fabric to make a hem, and secure the bow with a whip-stitch.

Let me iron up the white apron and spray it with starch to give it a little oomph.

You look perfect.

Wait! Wait! . . . Here, a little mascara, we'll make a black dot for your nose and whiskers. Hold still now, a little lipstick.

Okay, let's walk over to the community center.

Grandma will meet us there.

Jennylee, if you aren't the best mouse ever . . .

Jennylee Braillard, daughter
(2010 interviews)
"Just about my first memory of my mom was the Minnie Mouse costume she made me at Gold Bar, which is where you can hook up your trailer just outside Monroe, Washington.

"I won first place that Halloween. My prize was a six-pack of root beer."

As Jennylee speaks, her own infant daughter, Kaylynn, coos and looks around, a bow tied to her little, full-moon head.

"My mom was always happy. She was nurturing, caring. She was my mom."

Her mother's ashes sit in a container in Jennylee's home in west Phoenix. The dust is such a small amount inside a little vessel; you'd hardly believe that someone's remains could amount to so little.

It is a fact that Deborah Braillard did not always make good choices.

She died an agonizing death in a diabetic coma that would wring the life out of her over three weeks that seemed without end.

The bigger truth is that she was hurried on her way.

Deborah Braillard's passing is never far from Jennylee's thoughts; after all, she watched the worst of it.

"I was terrified to open the plastic bag with her ashes. I put mom in a big jewelry box. I think about taking her back to Gold Bar. That's where my grandmother and great grandmother are buried. It's been in the family forever. There are nature trails there . . .

"But I worry if something happens to my uncle who lives there [what would happen to Mom]."

Consider: In May 2010, researchers at the University of Wisconsin find that, in stressful situations, cortisol levels in girls soar. But for many of the young women, simply hearing their mother's voice is enough to wash away the anxiety, replacing the stress hormone with feelings of love.

Men have no such relief.

What happens between a mother and daughter comes from God.

Tamela Harper, inmate

(2007 deposition)

Tamela Harper is detained in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail when they put Deborah Braillard into her cell in January 2005.

"She was unconscious [on the evening of the 2nd]. She wasn't hardly there. She walked back to her bunk, and that was the last time I saw that lady walking. People were helping her. She was throwing up constantly. [Next day] that's when she started moaning and groaning and throwing up. She was basically unconscious at the time. She couldn't speak. She couldn't eat. The officers kept saying she was kicking heroin.

"She defecated on herself several times. There was no help for her. We kept telling the officers, you need to help her."

Brenda Tomanini, inmate

(2007 deposition)

Deborah Braillard threw up on other inmates, from her bunk to theirs. No guards, no nurses. The inmates, and Deborah, were alone on the 3rd.

On the morning of the 4th, medical asked to have Braillard brought into the clinic. But trusties could not wake the unconscious Deborah. She was left vegetating.

"I couldn't get Ms. Braillard up. Couldn't do it. She wouldn't respond to me at all. I could tell that she was breathing, but I couldn't get a response out of her.

"It just freaked me out because I don't think in my experience . . . I don't think she had been on drugs."

But the guards in the jail say different.

"Don't worry about Deborah Braillard. She's getting what she deserves. She's coming off drugs," is how Tomiani remembers it.

The inmates understand the drill, says Tomanini.

Tomanini described a retarded inmate brutalized for her sass.

"It broke my heart. I had to put my head under my blankets, and I cried. It broke my heart to see something like that."

Tomanini's experience with the medical clinic underscores the sense of neglect.

"I got sick and I was running a fever, and I had put a tank order in — that's what they call it for medical. And two months went along, and I didn't get any better. I was waiting for medical to call me . . . You had to fight to get medical attention.

Consider: It was standard procedure to collapse on the floor in order to get medical attention. Otherwise you might well be ignored by an overwhelmed medical clinic. Inmates report that guards would actually instruct them to drop, to collapse. Only then would a call — man down! — go out to the nurses.

Deborah Braillard, mother

Do I think? I think not.

I am aware.

I am aware of the I-will-nots:

I will not see my granddaughter, Kaylynn, walk. I will not give her my finger to steady her early toddles. I will not go down a slide with her. I will not put a Band-Aid on her owie.

I will not get a chance to be a better grandmother than I was a mom. Ever.

Consider: Deputies find methamphetamine in Braillard's purse about midnight on January 1, 2005. She is with a small group of users whose car breaks down in a parking lot on the west side when officers happen upon them.

She is admitted into the jail about 2 a.m. on January 2. Though the entire prison is videotaped around the clock, the sheriff is unable to produce any film of Deborah's early custody.

Historically, when inmates are killed or injured, Sheriff Arpaio loses evidence and incriminating video surveillance or produces video so degraded it is unwatchable.

Almost a full day after her initial booking, Braillard is transferred from the intake jail downtown to the all-female Estrella jail in west Phoenix. For the next 60 hours, guards at Estrella assume, mistakenly, that her wretched condition is the result of her kicking drugs.

This lethal mistake is aided and abetted by a poultice of organizational neglect combined with personal insensitivity that overwhelms thin outbreaks of humanity.

On the afternoon of January 4, 2005, guard Randall Harenberg calls the jail's medical clinic, 40 feet from where Braillard was held. No one comes to assess Braillard. The medical clinic has no record of his call. No jailer has any further contact with the clinic until the morning the ambulance arrives. No guard summons a supervisor.

Though nurses visit the cell twice a day to distribute pills, no deputy asks the nurses to look in on Braillard.

Sandra Garfias, guard

(2007 deposition)

"There was really nothing going on in the dorm that night [January 4], except we had one inmate kicking drugs. At the time that I worked, [medical] typically did not see inmates that were coming off drugs."

Nor is Garfias trained to differentiate which drug it is that someone might be coming off of.

She does understand that drug withdrawal can be lethal.

Still, she calls no one.

Dr. Laura Pieri, board certified in psychiatry, neurology, and forensic medicine and past medical director of Arizona's West Yavapai Guidance Clinic and Windhaven Psychiatric Hospital. Currently in private practice.

(2010 interview)

"Anyone in alcohol or barbiturate withdrawal needs medical supervision, and they need it immediately, as soon as you see the first sign. Of those who go into delirium tremens, the DTs, 20 percent die."

Dr. Pieri adds that science is discovering new and alarming facts about another class of drugs that can be lethal in withdrawal: slow-acting benzodiazepines. Commonly prescribed, and abused, such medications as Xanax, Halcium, and Librium, among others, can be toxic for those trying to kick.

Sandra Garfias, guard

(2007 deposition)

"I heard Braillard vomiting, more than twice, [on the evening of January 4].

"She had been throwing up, and I remember her saying her stomach hurt. I know that the inmates around her changed her bag because they asked me for a bag and also a change of clothing, because she had soiled herself . . . I told her [that] her stomach hurt because she was throwing up and coming off drugs."

In fact, Deborah Braillard is an insulin-dependent diabetic. She has not had insulin since her arrest January 1. Her body is shutting down. She is dying.

Garfias does not call medical. She checks Braillard's identification and moves on.

Did she say she was coming off drugs?


Was she moving at all?

"Yes, she was."

In what way?

"Squirming in the bed."

She looked uncomfortable?


You thought she was in pain?

"I don't know."

You just said she was holding her stomach. You thought she was in pain?


"I gave the other inmates a change of pants and underwear.

"I had to put them in a biohazard bag because I assumed she had defecated herself."

Was she speaking?

"She was just moaning . . . I don't know when it began. She was moaning when I came on shift . . . It was kind of loud."

You never had any training from the sheriff on inmates kicking drugs?


In the wee hours of the morning, Garfias extracts Braillard from her cell .

"At around 3 [a.m.], I put Deborah in what we call a boat, in the dayroom."

Garfias fills out the paperwork.

"At approximately 2:45, Deborah was placed in the dayroom due to the fact she's kicking and was groaning, yelling, and keeping the whole dorm up, and the dorm kept yelling at her to shut up."

Although Braillard is moaning, screaming, vomiting repeatedly, and soiling herself, Garfias does not call for medical. Instead, she deposits the woman in a blue plastic canoe stuffed with bedding in the empty dayroom.

"As far as her bothering me . . . that wouldn't bother me since I was going to be up all night anyway."

Tamela Harper, inmate

(2007 deposition)

"We could still hear Deborah in the dayroom making calls out for help. She was moaning. Basically, in a moan, you are wanting help in some sort of way. They wouldn't do anything that morning."

Jennylee Braillard

(2010 interviews)

"Even when I was little, I knew she was using . . . There was no difference between when Mom was using and when she wasn't. She took care of me. Made my meals. Besides her issues, she was a good mom. When she was in rehab [in Washington state], I'd spend every weekend there. Slept over. It was great. At one point, we went camping. Another time, there was a talent show, and all the people were really nice. All the families got involved. Mom and I and another girl and her mom, we all sang, 'Going to the Chapel.'"

But Jennylee noticed early that her mom always fell for the wrong guy. She collected animals and losers as if she were their patron saint.

"Needless to say, Mom met a guy in rehab, and they left the program. He nearly beat her to death in a hotel. The cleaning lady found her unconscious."

Brenda Tomanini, inmate

(2007 deposition)

"To think that the staff didn't care that this woman is moaning and groaning and she's pleading for help. I don't know what's wrong with you. There can be a whole lot of things wrong with you, but I would want to try to get you some type of medical attention."

At 7 a.m. on January 5, detention officers Stephanie Lieppert and Lucy Akpan start their shift. Garfias tells them the inmate in the dayroom is kicking drugs. They move Deborah Braillard out of the day room back to her cell.

Tamela Harper, inmate

(2007 deposition)

"That morning [January 5] they put her back in the main area in her bunk. She had another seizure. She had several seizures, as many as seven."

Consider: On January 4, at 8:17 p.m., a friend attempts to visit Braillard but is informed that Deborah is too sick to see anyone. An hour and a half later, at 9:42 p.m., another friend, Debbie Fouts, phones the jail and informs them that Braillard is a diabetic and apparently has not received her insulin.

Deputy Brenda O'Neil takes down the information during the conversation with Fouts about Braillard's insulin and faxes it to the jail's medical clinic, about 40 feet from where the inmate is vomiting and defecating and moaning.

Deputy O'Neil's fax violates all protocol. Because a fax is notoriously unreliable, policy insists the critical information be conveyed personally.

None of the nurses in the clinic looks at the fax. Not when it comes in. Not ever.

At 11 p.m. on January 4, Jennylee gets a call from a woman, a friend of Deborah's. Jennylee learns for the first time that her mom is locked up. She immediately calls the jail.

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interview)

"I called the number they give you and got her booking number, her charges, but it's basically an automated answering machine."

Jennylee then dashes over to her mom's house where she confronts her mom's boyfriend. He was with Deborah when she was arrested three nights earlier.

At 7 the next morning, Jennylee again phones the jail. She is put through to Dennis Flynn, risk manager with County Health. She informs him that her mother is an insulin-dependent diabetic who may not be receiving her medication.

"Was there any way he could get back to me?" she asks.


"He thanked me for calling and assured me something would be done. When I hung up, I didn't know what to do."

Stephanie Lieppert, guard

(2007 deposition)

"She threw up again after I moved her back into her cell [from the boat in the dayroom], and just knowing that she had been up that night vomiting and having diarrhea, that would indicate to me that someone needs to be seen."

She calls the medical clinic on the morning of January 5.

Is this the policy of the sheriff?

"No, it is not . . . We were given first-aid training, CPR training. They are very brief on the situation of kicking. We are not told to notify anyone in particular."

Lucy Akpan, guard

(2007 deposition)

After detention officer Garfias informed her that Braillard was kicking drugs, Akpan called the medical clinic on the morning of January 5.

It is Akpan's experience that the clinic is sometimes reluctant to respond to concerns about inmates' medical conditions.

"She started yelling and screaming — rolling, you know, in the boat . . . I said, 'She has to leave this place. She needs medical attention' . . . It's so devastating because I was, like, how can someone do this to herself?

"I'm a mother. I see sick people. I've seen sick children . . . I saw her yelling."

The medical clinic says it has no record of calls from guard Lieppert or guard Akpan.

Tamela Harper, inmate

(2007 deposition)

At 10 a.m. on January 5, ambulance attendants arrive at Estrella jail for Deborah Braillard.

"I was there for my Accu-Chek because I'm a diabetic.

"I saw her lying on the stretcher, and EMS was there helping her, and I heard one EMS ask the other one what was the vital signs. And when he told her the vital signs [116 over 63], they just looked at each other, like, wow. And that's when they took her out.

"The officer started yelling at me for me to sit down, and I started yelling at him, 'You were wrong for all that. You could have helped her.'

"I was told by the guard, 'Sit down and don't be looking at this. This is none of your concern.'

"Us inmates requested medical attention more than half a dozen times.

"They wouldn't do it. 'She's kicking.' 'Get over it. Deal with it. This is jail.' 'It was her fault that she did it to herself. What can we do?'"

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

"I was living with my grandmother. After my uncle moved to Arizona, he convinced my grandmother to move to Phoenix to escape Mom's drama. We came here in '95-'96. My mom moved to Spokane, and we all took a trip back to Washington to see her. We went out to dinner, but that was when I was angry with Mom. I didn't want to be apart. Didn't understand why she did the things she did. I ran out to the bathroom. Mom followed me, and we had serious discussion about all this, both crying. The thing I remember is her saying over and over that she loved me. She said she never hit me.

"I vented, and then things were fine between us. I had to accept who she was. She did take care of me. She was good to me.

"She visited Arizona twice, and that's when we learned, at the hospital, that she was a diabetic. It runs in the family.

"Shortly after that, she moved to Arizona. She drove her beat-up Datsun full of her stuff and lived with me and Grandma. We both worked in my uncle's pizza place. At first, there was conflict, because she tried to become boss in the house. But she improved herself in all areas. She was clean."

If Jennylee was content with the status quo, her mom was not. She stage-managed a romance for her daughter.

"She instigated this thing where I went out with [a] driver for the pizzeria. He had a buzzed head with a blue dot."

When the family pizza business closed its doors, mother and daughter went to work at a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Consider: Deputy Cindy Rodriguez does the intake interview of Deborah Braillard about 2 a.m. January 2. Officer Rodriguez is required to interview Braillard about her medical history. This is when the Sheriff's Office should've discovered that the inmate was an insulin-dependent diabetic.

But Rodriguez has no training and is learning on the job. She does not review the police report, which clearly shows Deborah Braillard is on medication.

Because those under arrest are often unreliable, untruthful, or unable to give a full accounting of their health, the national standard is that pre-existing medical records at the jail must be reviewed.

Deputy Rodriguez fails to examine Braillard's medical history on record with the jail, records from previous arrests that show clearly that Deborah is an insulin-dependent diabetic.

Without daily insulin injections, Braillard will go into a coma and die.

But intake officers are under pressure from Sheriff Joe Arpaio to process prisoners more quickly.

Computer records show that Officer Rodriguez entered the information into the database in 59 seconds.

Just as alarming, Sheriff Arpaio's records contain no "receiving screening" form for the time and date of Deborah's actual admission: 2:26 a.m. on January 2, 2005.

Instead, the receiving screening form produced by Maricopa County is dated after her intake. Days later, in fact — after Deborah already had been taken by ambulance to County Hospital, where she died. The receiving screening form is dated January 5, 2005, about 12 hours after Deborah was transported to the hospital.

A nurse in the jail explains why intake paperwork is filled out after a death.

She sees inmates admitted without ever being asked a single question.

"It is a custom, practice, and pattern."

Deborah Braillard, mother

I lived my life thinking I'm a rebel. I'm not like my mother, all moody and sullen about life's hard knocks. Not me. I love the bad boys. I live the life. I did not join the system.

Now look at me.

Lost my Pumpkin, the only one I truly love.

I'm delusional, that's what I am. I'm not outside the system. I am the system. My every move is documented. Every shoplifting report, every security guard, every cop, the juvenile probation officer, the pre-sentence report, the confessions, the plea bargains, the motions, the booking slips, the credit card scams, the mug shots. I am as indelible as a fingerprint. I am the fully revealed cog.

A powder sniffer's closet has more willing witnesses than coat hangers. Every friend is weighing betrayal: When do I give up Deborah for a reduced sentence?

No one had a real job. We were all chameleons, scoring from each other and ripping each other off. Hell, they bust into my home with masks and guns and grab everything of value. You think those were strangers?

The Man owns the paperwork and the rights to my life.

My dodge isn't so artful after all.

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

"Driving anywhere with my mom was great. She had great taste in music. Once, I got my hair cut and she cut her hair just like mine. She was exciting and fun."

Elaine Clayton, registered nurse,

County Health Services

(2007/2010 deposition and interviews)

When guards Lieppert and Akpan called the medical clinic, they were informed that Deborah would be seen when there was a doctor.

Clayton was in the clinic when Dennis Flynn, acting upon the call from Jennylee regarding her mother's insulin, phoned to warn about Deborah's condition.

But Jennylee's phone call is noted as coming at 7 a.m.

Flynn, the County Health Services risk manager, did not relay her emergency message for two full hours. He phoned the clinic at 9 a.m.

Records show that the clinic did not call for Deborah Braillard until 9:45 a.m., nearly three hours after the daughter notified the county.

"They brought her into the clinic. She sat in the chair. She was very, very lethargic and placed on a stretcher. She was sweating and having a difficult time breathing.

"Breathing became more labored. She looked like death."

Clayton observed that there was no capacity for emergency response.

"The policy was: You called dispatch. Dispatch would then ask a number of questions: identity of inmate, where they were going, could they go in [a] county vehicle, or did they need an ambulance. Then, call [the] sergeant and supply more details. Then, dispatch selects an ambulance company, which must find the jail."

In this case, Clayton argued for the fastest possible response: Call 911.

Instead, CHS followed guidelines and called a commercial ambulance.

"It was the difference between life and death.

"There's a look and sound that people make when they are dying, and she looked and sounded like someone who was dying."

The ambulance arrived at 10 a.m., three hours after Jennylee had raised the red flag.

Clayton worked at CHS for two years before quitting in disgust.

"I saw some incredibly horrible things happen, and I saw no action being taken or visible action being taken to correct the incredible lack of competent healthcare."

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

"When I got to the hospital [where Deborah was now in a coma], she looked horrible. She was chained to the bed with these big old metal chains. There was a tube down her throat. They said that because of the lack of oxygen she would never be the same. Right from the start, they wanted me to unplug her, but I wouldn't."

Deborah Braillard, mother

By the time I left the sheriff's jail, the pain was much worse than childbirth.

Do you think Joe Arpaio understands how I suffered? Shoot, you think Joe Arpaio understands the agony of childbirth. Chop a man's finger off during Lamaze. That would be a start!

These guards are Arpaio's women. A wiser woman than me said it right: "Fear was invented by someone who never had the fear."

My life left me at both ends of my body: I soiled my pillow and soiled my pants. My body was so torqued it tried to escape in convulsions.

They looked past my death rattle and ripped me away from Pumpkin.

I scream to Jesus.

Elaine Clayton, R.N.

(2007/2010 depositions and interviews)

"Inmates sent tank orders — kites — which were requests for medical care. CHS was supposed to prioritize those requests.

"Oftentimes, it would be days before any of them would be looked at . . . The chances of an appointment for care actually coming to fruition were small . . . They were backlogged by hundreds of appointments."

It wasn't simply that the medical clinic ignored inmates kicking drugs — they ignored everyone."There was a person in the jail with cancer on his tongue, and they made him wait to see a doctor. He waited four or five months. When you have a cancerous growth, you see a doctor as soon as possible.

"Another one I'll never forget said, 'I need medical attention. I'm bleeding from my nose, rectum, and mouth.' That person came to the clinic, was not seen, and was returned to the jail. Second visit produced no results. Finally, jailers called on Saturday when I was in. I checked urine and bowel samples and found blood. When I went to get oxygen . . . I got the tank and turned it on. Nothing. The tank was empty. Her vital signs were not within normal limits. She was bleeding internally, and I called for an ambulance.

"The place is incredibly understaffed for both nurses and doctors. I was often the only licensed nurse. I had an aide with no skills. We dealt with 1,200 to 1,500 inmates. If a doctor was sick, no one covered. If there was a meeting, no doctor. They'd schedule 150 visits a day. If they saw 30, they felt good. Yeah, nurses did not respond to withdrawals. Any wonder?"

Although they should have known from their own records that Deborah was a diabetic dependent on insulin, that was no guarantee of treatment, according to Clayton.

"Arpaio brags that he only spends 15 cents a day on inmate food. Well, diabetics are costly because of their special diet and insulin. People are not seen when they are supposed to be treated. Chronic becomes acute. People end up in ICU."

Diabetics left for court at 2 in the morning without insulin.

"By evening, their Accu-Chek readings were 400 and above [normal is 80 to 100]."

"When I addressed this with detention . . . it went nowhere. Nurses working that time frame would simply refuse to perform an Accu-Chek or they wouldn't give insulin."

Clayton was depressed but not surprised by the culture she found in the jail.

"Sheriff Joe's personality permeated the jail. It is a Joe cult. He has the image of being tough. Saw [the] same attitude in [the] nursing staff. It was a magnet for bitter people. Inmates wouldn't be in jail if they hadn't done something wrong. They deserved what they got."

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

"It was just so . . . weird. I talked to my mom on the first of January. Four days later, she's in ICU. She's in coma, and there is all this pressure from the doctors to pull the plug."

Twelve days after arriving at the hospital, on January 17, Deborah Braillard woke up. No one called her daughter, who arrived later that evening to learn the startling news.

"She woke up. She was responsive. She refused water because she wanted soda. She nodded her head to questions."

Lisa Press, Deborah's friend

(2007 deposition)

Press met Deborah in 2000. They were neighbors in west Phoenix and in the same methamphetamine circle. She bought from Deborah and used with Deborah.

"One thing about Debbie: I liked her as a person. I liked being over there with her, as opposed to the people I was living with. But I'd only see her three times a week because Debbie's house was so chaotic. There'd be 20 people in there sometimes. You know, all through the house."

In 2002, Lisa and everyone she was living with got busted. She quit using. Went cold turkey.

But she didn't lose her old friends. One druggy stole a cross that belonged to her son. It had enormous sentimental value. Debbie found the religious symbol and returned it to Lisa.

Then, Debbie needed a favor. She had to do a drug screening as part of her probation and wondered if the now-clean Lisa would do it for her.

"I just walked into the [Department of Motor Vehicles] and said I needed a duplicate because I lost my driver's license. They gave me a sheet of paper to fill out, and I put Deborah's address on it. They asked if I wanted the same photo they had on file, and I said, 'No, I'll take a new one.'"

Armed with phony identification, she went into a Treatment Assessment Screening Center for a urine analysis posing as Deborah Braillard.

"I was very nervous. I was talking myself out of it because I kept thinking . . . if my sister finds out. But I did it for her because she was a friend. I just felt bad for her. Plus, she gave me $50."

Press described a scene the rest of the world has a hard time coming to grips with.

"Meth makes you lose weight. Some people, it really affects their skin, their arms. People pick at their face. It messes with your teeth. You don't want to eat. You don't want to sleep. We just straighten things up. I mean, I don't know if you've ever seen a lot of people that do drugs. They collect a lot of things. They collect junk. We'd just organize it and listen to music."

Straight or stoned, Press remembered Jennylee.

"Jennifer would come by to see if her mother was okay. I know they had a good relationship, Deborah and her daughter. I know they were very close. That I do know. Debbie spoke highly of Jennifer."

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

On the evening of January 17, Deborah's daughter arrived at the hospital only to learn that her mom had been awake earlier that same day. But now she was again unconscious.

"When I first got there, I took her hand, as I always did, and started talking to her. And she squeezed my hand."

The daughter's world was spinning out of control.

"I couldn't believe they didn't call me. The person I needed to talk to was her."

Dr. Todd Wilcox, former director,

County Health Services

(2008 deposition)

One month before Deborah Braillard was arrested, Dr. Todd Wilcox was hired by Maricopa County to revitalize and reform the clinic dispensing medical care inside Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail.

This was the medical clinic, according to Arpaio's guards, whose nurses and doctors refused to see inmates who were kicking drugs.

Dr. Wilcox found a rat's nest but not rats.

"The people who work on the line level with CHS . . . want to do a good job. Nobody comes to work wanting to hurt anybody . . . They really want to take care of their patients . . . They are heroes for working within the system."

But the system is a beast.

As long ago as 1996, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division found that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails violated the Constitution and that healthcare in them was "seriously deficient."

In 1997, Arpaio's jails were the only county jail, to be investigated by Amnesty International, which condemned the conditions in the sheriff's jails.

Yet not only were the details of the federal legal proceedings withheld from Dr. Wilcox, he was misled as to their import.

"The details of the amended judgment were not reviewed with us and, in fact, the information that was presented to us was that this was pretty much a dead case."

He was not shown the March 25, 1996, letter from the Department of Justice that found that detention officers were not responsive, that inmates were not adequately assessed during intake by personnel with sufficient medical training, and that appointments with healthcare were frequently missed.

He was never shown the 1999 binding agreement between the DOJ and the county regarding unconstitutional healthcare conditions. On page 3 of that letter, the sheriff promised that anybody doing intake screening of inmates would be appropriately trained by CHS. Furthermore, intake screeners would take a look at arrest reports as part of screening. (Braillard's intake deputy had not been trained, did not look at the police report that documented her need for medication, and blew through detailed paperwork. The screening process involved seven different computer screens that had to be individually filled out and saved. Yet Deputy Cindy Rodriguez did it, as noted, in 59 seconds)

Dr. Wilcox was not shown the 2000 Moore and Associates report that detailed the continued unconstitutional medical conditions in Arpaio's jails.

Nor was he shown the 2003 Bosch study that, yet again, pointed out the ever-present unconstitutional medical conditions.

"I am shocked at those documents . . . I have never seen any of those."

The Justice Department also determined that the sheriff's recordkeeping was a farce.

Dr. Wilcox found that the medical records were backlogged for a full year.

"When I toured the medical records, I found upwards of 60,000 pages of unfiled documentation in the medical record section."

He was ordered by county liaisons to the Board of Supervisors not to put the incriminating data in writing.

"We owed the county a report about the state of CHS . . . What we found [was not] legal, and we were instructed to pull those from the report and to brief them only verbally."

The report was prepared during the period that Deborah Braillard was incarcerated.

That same year, 2005, the jail saw its medical accreditation put in limbo.

"For the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, this is a remarkable event. NCCHC is a very positive organization. They try very hard to help agencies with changes and compliance.

"For them to put a facility on probation was a rather remarkable step for them," acknowledged Dr. Wilcox.

Deborah Braillard, mother


The banging on the door is loud.


They start kicking in the freakin' door. Everyone's yelling. My God, my God, I can't get out. Where do I hide? I can't hide! Fuck, FUCK. Flush the drugs . . . Everyone's running around the house terri-fucking-fied.

Before anything could be dumped in the toilet, the cops were inside, and when the yelling settled down, they had all three of us.

They found eight bindles in my bedroom closet, and under my bed, a mirror, a cocaine pipe, and a few rocks.

Even now, my heart races when I think about it. WHY? WHY? WHY?

Thank God my mother's taking care of Jennylee.

I live with Jean Yvonne Ford in Kirkland, Washington. In February, Jean bought some cocaine from an undercover cop while carrying additional cocaine and a syringe in her bra, more drugs in every pocket, and a couple of thousand dollars cash — not to mention an accounting sheet with all of her drug transactions. Brilliant, right?

Under the circumstances, Jean got real cooperative.

Jean told the cops she had another four ounces of coke in her safe at home, as well as three grand in bills. She told the cops they could search her home and that they would find her son, Kenneth Rogers, Rene Duran, and me.

I admitted I sold the rocks for my rent. Smoked my fair share, too.

They read me my Miranda rights, which was about the first time that happened, but not the last.

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

"I have always been the type, if someone is in a coma, I believe they recognize you being there. One nurse told me, 'Just keep talking to her. She can hear you. I've seen some pretty wild things happen.'

"They cut her hair, which would have upset her. It upset me."

"And all the time, the doctors kept up the pressure to unplug her.

"We told them if her heart stopped, don't revive her."

Because Deborah's body retained fluids, she swelled grotesquely.

"The big enormous chain around her ankle . . . it was embedded in her leg. Her organs shut down."

Arpaio's deputy, stationed near Deborah, refused to unshackle the woman, though Jennylee said her mom was released from jail once she was sent to the emergency room.

Her feet had turned black. Her mouth was scabrous.

On January 23, three weeks after her arrest, a priest came into the hospital to visit.

Deborah Braillard had a Bible when she coded.

"I freaked and left the room."

The doctor came around the corner searching for Jennylee.

She screamed, "I know. I know!"

Deborah Braillard, mother

There is no shock, but shock. There is no suffering, but suffering. There is no agony but agony. There is no death, but death. There is but death.

Dr. Todd Wilcox

(2008 deposition)

Upon his arrival, Dr. Wilcox decided that the two principal reforms necessary to make healthcare in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail less deadly involved up-to-date health records and a thorough intake process.

"I firmly believed that."

But every attempt to computerize and improve the lax recordkeeping in the sheriff's jail was vetoed by county administrators working under the Board of Supervisors.

Wilcox's concerns about the intake process fared little better.

"Reviewing past medical history is really a critical element of the booking process."

Deborah Braillard was incarcerated three times in 2003, and in each instance, she was treated for diabetes. In 2005, no one — guard, nurse, doctor — looked at the records already on file with the jail that established, unequivocally, that she was insulin-dependent.

"Reviewing past medical history is so critical to us that we actually have a special box on our intake form that the nurses have to check and initial that they have reviewed past medical history."

Deborah Braillard, instead of being treated for diabetes, was presumed by guards to be kicking drugs.

"It's not an adequate response to attribute [her condition] to drug withdrawal. Absolutely not. That's just not appropriate. Even if it were drug withdrawal, that is serious. Drug withdrawal needs to be treated."

Over the four days Deborah Braillard was in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's custody, six guards would watch Braillard's agony. CHS has no record of any of them calling for medical assistance. Assume that is part of CHS' abysmal recordkeeping. The fact remains that not a single officer viewed her tortured "withdrawal" worthy of intervention. No jailer alerted a supervisor. Not a single guard mentioned Braillard's condition to the nurses who visited the cellblock twice a day to dispense pills. Why?

"I can tell you that the prevailing philosophy here is . . . tough on crime. We want people to be uncomfortable and not enjoy the jail stay. [Guards] are not proactive about making sure that things are going okay within the jails. Inmates have to fend for themselves in these jails . . . The end result [is] these jails are much more violent."

Although Dr. Wilcox focused on the tsunami of lost records and the unconstitutional admissions process, he was, at times, simply stunned by the culture in Arpaio's lockups.

His medical specialty involved prosthetic limbs, braces, and certain kinds of compression socks used by burn victims.

"We would order them and [Sheriff Arpaio's] SWAT team would do a sweep and take everything away . . . Inmates need that, and those devices are expensive."

After three years, Dr. Wilcox was dispirited and alarmed.

The county did "nothing that was truly effective . . . because to truly fix the mismatch requires a significant investment in staff and resources . . . I felt my medical license was in jeopardy."

He resigned.

"It came to a crisis of conscience."

Deborah Braillard, mother

By the time I got arrested in 2005, I'd had eight run-ins with the law. All petty misdemeanors. You couldn't look at me like a hardened criminal. Mostly, I am helpless and hopeless. Like someone in the shadows of a comic book.

I switched off cocaine a long time ago and got into methamphetamine, which is the poor woman's way. Meth is the original sin. Left Courtney Love with the shakes and never gave any woman any better. And yet, you love meth like you love a child: without reservation.

Meth makes you feel good. For days on end. You might look like Amy Winehouse but you feel like Grace Kelly — a chatty Grace Kelly.

Consider: On September 25, 2008, the NCCHC moved beyond the censure of probation and formally revoked accreditation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails going back to 2005 (when Braillard was incarcerated). Not only was the medical clinic stripped of certification, the NCCHC declared that the county had "provided false information" in pursuit of validation.

In 2008, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake found Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail "unconstitutional" on a variety of fronts. In 2010, the 9th U.S. Circuit court of appeals upheld the ruling.

In November of this year, Maricopa County administrators discovered that Sheriff Arpaio maintained two sets of financial records. The data revealed that the sheriff misappropriated as much as $80 million that voters had earmarked for the jails. Instead of alleviating the horrendous conditions in the cells, the money was spent on the sheriff's more politically popular initiatives — like rounding up Mexican immigrants.

Deborah Braillard, mother

Arpaio and his people all say I should have told them I was a diabetic. They claim I purposely didn't speak up, so that I'd end up in the infirmary.

Imagine that. I'm wallowing in my own excrement and vomit for days on end, convulsing like the bride of Frankenstein, and if I don't confess I'm a diabetic — then I deserve to die.

Did I want to escape into the infirmary?

Well, I'm not telling. But if that's my crime, it's a harebrained scheme at worst. Who wouldn't prefer an infirmary to a jail cell?

But apparently this wasn't the way to get there.

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interviews)

"When Mom was in the hospital, I'd go by her home and feed all the animals. She always had good pets and bad boyfriends. She had to mother all these losers. I give her credit for not using and trying her best. There were no drugs in her system, according to the blood test, when she died.

"The drug issue was a disease. I've tried to figure out what the drug addiction was about. It's a way of growing up. When she was young, all her brothers played around with drugs. Even though she was strong-willed, her drugs were a weakness. But also a comfort.

"After she died, our family divided up the animals. I took the pregnant dog. I raised 11 puppies and searched for loving homes. I found seven. Took the rest to Four Paws, a no-kill shelter, and they found homes for the remaining pups. Kept one for myself."

You know that Deborah Braillard took in men who abused her and drugs. It is also a fact that she came from a family that suffered depression and indulged in alcohol and drugs. You might say self-medication was as genetic as the diabetes.

Jennylee is on another path. She is married to Nathan, a manager at T.J. Maxx, and has built a life around her baby, whose full name is Kaylynn Ann. Deborah's middle name was Ann.

"I love being a mom. She is a lot of fun. I could not imagine a day without her."

Jennylee works at the Family Christian Bookstore and cherishes the memory of her mother.

"She didn't get to meet my husband. She hasn't seen my growth. I have a daughter. She has a granddaughter. She's not here physically but she is spiritually. I know she's out there. She gets glimpses of us, watches over us. Sees us."

Jennylee lives in hope.

"I have complete faith she'll have eternal life."

Consider: On April 21, 2006, Jennylee sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the county, and County Health Services. Those who believe legal actions are a lottery ticket that result in easy paydays do not grasp the particulars. The most brutal behavior in a cell block is legally defended by hard men and hard women; and in this particular case, they put the proposition to this young daughter: She didn't really know her mother all the well, did she?

The sheriff's team informed the court that Jennylee's "social interaction with her mom consisted mostly of alleged visits to her mother's home. Those visits were sporadic."

At most, three times a week and on weekends.

Jennylee "was so out of touch with her mother [that] she actually believed she was not on drugs at the time of her arrest."

In fact, an autopsy revealed no drugs in Braillard's body.

The sheriff's attorneys punctuated their point by shoving a mug shot of Deborah in front of Jennylee during a deposition.

Attorney Dennis Wilenchik then informed Jennylee that she had not tried hard enough to save her mother's life, that, if anything, it was not the brutality of the jail guards that killed Deborah Braillard, but rather an ineffectual daughter.

Although Jennylee spoke to the jail's risk manager at 7 a.m. on January 5, 2005, and informed him that her mother was an insulin-dependent diabetic needing immediate attention, the sheriff's lawyer attacked the daughter for not doing enough.

Questions: "Do you think maybe you could have done something, [that] if you had done that, maybe [something could have been done quicker]? You don't think it would be helpful for you to go down to the jail if your mother's about to die to make sure that somebody does something?

"Maybe go down there and bang on the door and ask for some help?"

On October 21, 2008, the court granted motions for summary judgment, in effect, tossing out the federal aspect of the case after 30 months. The judge offered little comment while leaving the state action intact.

Attorney Michael Manning won a strongly worded reversal on appeal, and the entire Braillard case was reinstated. The sheriff's attorneys filed a petition for review, which will be heard by the Arizona Supreme Court on January 4.

Consider: The statements in this account are direct quotes from depositions, transcripts, interviews, and other official documents, though any culling of a record of such Dickensian complexity represents a coarse boiling, at best.

But the words of the dead mother are constructions.

Even a casual reader might ask: Pardon?

Deborah Braillard's thoughts are built, in part, upon personal remembrances, recollections, and a voluminous court record. Deborah Braillard's thoughts are further built by venting sentiments — brutal, yet dormant. when limited by that which is admissible.

The thoughts are my words.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." Deborah Braillard's words in this story, a tiny component of an otherwise verbatim accounting, are a small attempt to give voice to a woman left mute by justice.

Jennylee Braillard, daughter

(2010 interview)

"At first, there was anger. I could not understand how this could happen. That's why I sued.

"I've learned what happened to her: plain and simple cruelty. Maybe this lawsuit can change the system. That would be the biggest blessing."

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." — John 1:5.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey