Almost a year ago, Jessica Preston was eight months pregnant when she was detained in Detroit’s Macomb County Jail. She told deputies she was in labor, but the staff didn’t believe her and sent her back to the cell. She ended up giving birth on a mattress placed on a cell floor.

Preston’s case resurfaced after Local 4 Defenders, an investigative news organization, started looking into the Macomb County Jail’s history of medical incidents. The agency revealed video footage of what happened.

Jessica Preston was eight months pregnant when she was detained in Detroit's Macomb County Jail. Image credit: Click On Detroit
Jessica Preston was eight months pregnant when she was detained in Detroit’s Macomb County Jail. Image credit: Click On Detroit

Preston had been caught driving on a suspended license – only her first offense. The judge ordered her to stay in jail for the 14 days anticipating the court hearing, after she failed to pay the $10,000 fine, reported Local 4 Defenders.

On the fifth day of her detention, the restrained woman rang for help for the first time around 7:30 a.m. because she believed she was in labor and requested to be taken to see medical staff. She tried a second time only to be rejected again. The staff called her a liar and claimed it would be more apparent if she were entering labor, recalled Preston to the news outlet.

It wasn’t until she returned from her cell 90 minutes later with blood pouring down her legs that she was assisted, almost six hours after her first alarmed call. But it was too late for the baby to make it to the nearest hospital, only three minutes away from the Detroit jail, as reported by Local 4 news.

“I don’t know how you can ignore something like that. To me, when I came to them bleeding, that should have been the real [sign]. I mean, I should have gone first thing in the morning. But when I come to you bleeding, eight months pregnant and bleeding, you go to the hospital,” complained Preston, mother of a baby boy named Elijah.

Elijah was delivered one month early on the floor of a cell close to the medical area, weighing less than 5 pounds. The father, Thomas Chastain, is enraged over the jail staff mishandling his son’s birth. He wasn’t present to witness it or even cut the umbilical cord.

Image credit: Click on Detroit
Image credit: Click on Detroit

Macomb Country Sheriff Anthony Wickersham defended his staff over their actions, saying he was “100% confident” they acted accordingly despite video showing how Jessica was ignored two times before getting medical assistance. Two employees were working that day, and they were on the phone with the doctor, alleged Wickersham for Local 4.

“Obviously, that is going to cost taxpayers more money to increase that kind of contract,” presumed Wickerman about the low level of funding for medical services and staff.

Supposedly, inmates’ medical care could only be improved if taxpayers are willing to run with the costs.

Wickersham also responded that the medical records should be brought out to show people what the medical staff did each time, according to Local 4.

One of many medical incidents

Macomb County Jail was already under attack following the deaths of two of their recluses: Jennifer Meyers in 2013 and David Stojcevski in 2014. Preston’s case resonates with a larger national debate over prisoners having access to essential health services.

Advocacy organizations argue that there are alternative approaches like prison-diversion and community-based programs which can relieve costs for prisons and jails. These groups published a report showing women are the ideal population for alternative sentencing programs since they have a lower risk of violence and community harm, told The Christian Science Monitor.

Source: Christian Science Monitor