A Michigan sheriff is defending a county jail’s decision to withhold treatment from a woman who gave birth in a jail after staff members refused to believe she was going into labor.
A lawmaker is now urging state investigators to look at the case, the same jail previously probed by federal investigators for the deaths of two inmates refused hospitalization in the past four years.
Jessica Preston was pulled over in March last year for a rosary hanging from her rear view mirror that police claimed obstructed her view of the mirror. After police discovered her license was suspended, she was arrested and a judge ordered her to pay $10,000 cash bond for her first-ever driving offense. She was also ordered to appear in court five days later.
Eight months pregnant and unable to post her bond, Preston spent the next five days at a Detroit-area Macomb County jail where she says she went into childbirth without being allowed to see a doctor.
As jail surveillance video shows, Preston was denied medical attention three times by jail staffers who believed she was lying before a deputy finally allowed her to wait in the jail’s medical area.
“(They said), ‘We don’t believe you,” Preston told WDIV. “‘We think you’re lying and you’re not in labor. We’d be able to tell. There are certain things that are more apparent, so go back to your cell.'”
Preston said blood was running down her leg by her third visit with jail staffers, who declined to allow her to be treated at a hospital. Minutes later, Preston was attended by jail staff as she gave birth to five-pound Elijah on a jail resting mat.
“When I was on the floor, like, ‘Please don’t let me have this baby in here. Please just call an ambulance,'” Preston told WDIV.
“I pushed him out right on the floor. At this point, I was just in complete shock. I could not believe that it had just happened that way.”
Preston’s case is one of many that have raised public ire. In 2013 a jail staffers allowed a woman’s untreated fever to develop into sepsis, killing her. The FBI investigated staffers’ treatment of a man in custody for a moving violation who died in Macomb County Jail from withdrawals to his medication in 2014. No criminal charges were ever pursued.
At least one lawmaker, Rep. Peter Lucido, of Macomb County, is calling for state ombudsmen to look into complaints like these at jails statewide.
Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, who previously defended staffers’ treatment of an inmate in 2014, told the Associated Press Tuesday that he’s “100 percent” satisfied with how jail and medical staff handled the situation.