MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – The parents of a woman who died serving a 30-day sentence in the Macomb County Jail are warning others about the dangers of drug addiction.
Jennifer Meyers died while serving a 30-day sentence in the Macomb County Jail for being behind on child-support payments. Her death had nothing to do with her heroin addiction directly, but the addiction did trigger the chain of events that ultimately landed her behind bars.
Meyers died from a virus in the Macomb County Jail, and she was sent to jail, because she spent her money feeding a drug addiction instead of paying child support. Her parents hoped the story will help other families.
"A lot of emergency rooms, you know, you go to an ER for pain," said Diane Hubble, Meyers' mother. "What do they give you? Opioids. That leads to opioid addiction."
When the pills run out, addicts have to try buying them on the street. But that's expensive, so many people, including Meyers, turn to heroin.
"You're not going to do that very long, but I will tell you what will fix all of your opioid addiction is (if) you go see the dope man," said Russell Hubble, Meyers' father. "He will give you a $10 bag of heroin. You're good for the whole day."
Once addicted to heroin, life changes dramatically.
"It's horrible," Diane Hubble said. "It is. It's devastating. It destroyed her. It attempts to destroy families."
The worry and fear were, at times, unbearable.
"It's the worst thing I've ever experienced, knowing that there's times that they are out on the street, and you don't know where they are," Diane Hubble said.
Meyers' parents said addicts will stop at nothing to get what they need.
"They're in debt to everybody," Russell Hubble said. "They have to get that straight. They borrow, they sell everything they can sell.
"It's the lowest point in their life, but one person that's always going to be paid up to date is the heroin dealer, or they're going to be hunted by the heroin dealer."
Meyers' parents said they tried to take her to rehab.
"There were times when I was so hopeful long-term," Diane Hubble said. "She would be nine months clean, almost a year, and then I don't know, something would happen."
"When they're addicted and they have that craving, it's like, 'OK, I need water, and then I need heroin and then I need food,'" Russell Hubbel said.
Meyers lost her kids and then her freedom. She lost her life 12 days into her 30-day sentence. Her parents said addiction took her life, and their hope is that others will take the epidemic seriously, because the next family to see it could be their own.
The family is suing the county and the private medical company working in the jail.
Heartbreak over daughter's jail death
The family was torn apart by Meyers' death, and thousands of viewers responded to the Local 4 Defenders' story. Many of them wanted to know, 'Where is the human dignity for inmates?' and 'If someone is so sick that they're sweating and curled up in a ball, suffering in pain, why aren't guards and medical staff giving them the attention anyone would expect and deserve?'
Meyers' parents said their daughter was more than an inmate. She was a mother, a daughter and a sister. They said she almost didn't make it into the world, because she was born premature, weighting 3 pounds, 5.5 ounces. She barely survived.
"People were running around, they were hollering on the PA," Russell Hubble said.
"She was a fighter," Diane Hubble said. "She was such a fighter. Any baby that has to go through all of that."
Diane and Russell Hubble said their daughter was a happy child, playing T-ball and joining the Girl Scouts.
"She actually ended up getting the Silver Award, which is the highest award a Girl Scout can get," Diane Hubble said.
Meyers got married and had children, but a back problem turned into a prescription-pill problem, which turned into a heroin problem. She was divorced, and it was best for the children that their father have custody.
"It's horrible," Diane Hubble said. "It is. It's devastating. It destroyed her."
Meyers soon fell behind on child-support payments.
"It was a child-support sweep," Russell Hubble said. "They are very proud of that in Macomb County -- how they sweep people up for child support and incarcerate them."
When Meyers was sentenced to 30 days in jail for nonpayment, there was a sense of relief.
"You just think, 'Good, I know where she is,'" Diane Hubble said. "I don't have to worry about her that she's safe, that she will be fed, she will be taken care of. If she gets sick, she will have medical care."
Meyers' parents found out their daughter was dead from acute sepsis, a virus that made her very sick. According to a federal lawsuit, jail and medical staff never took her to a hospital.
"They explained that, you know, they saw Jennifer at breakfast, saw Jennifer at lunchtime, and when she didn't show up for dinner, they found her dead on the floor," Russell Hubble said.
When the Hubbles demanded reports of the death, the story didn't add up.
"Well, she was in there 10 days, she lost 17 pounds," Diane Hubble said. "That's a lot of weight. That's a lot of weight to lose. The last four or five days, she was sick and progressively got worse. Many inmates have come forward."
Meyers died July 7, 2013, but video obtained by the Local 4 Defenders showed the scene following her death and interviews with other inmates who said Meyers grew sicker each day, sweating profusely with a foul smell.
"She was literally laying in bed cuddled up like this, not even able to move," a witness said.
They claimed she sought medical help for days.
"She's not feeling well, and the nurses aren't doing crap about it, and the officers don't give her the time of day," a witness said.
"All they had to do was call Medstar, that's all they had to do," Diane Hubble said. "They could have taken her to the hospital right around the corner."
The Hubbles thought their daughter would be safe in jail, and they don't understand why she was allowed to slowly deteriorate into death. They want to know why medical staff didn't do more to save her.
"If the inmates knew she was sick, certainly any deputy that was working during any of that time should have recognized the fact that she was sick," Diane Hubble said. "Nobody did anything."
They want to know how in this day and age, in a country as advanced as America, a person can slowly die over a period of several days in front of medical staff, guards and other inmates.
"Who would ever think?" Russell Hubble said. "Who would ever think this is going to happen to your child?"
The Hubbles said they know their daughter wasn't perfect, but they believed she deserved the human dignity of a trip to the hospital. They're speaking out so the unnecessary jail deaths come to an end.
"She didn't want to die," Diane Hubble said. "That choice was taken away from her."
The jail is run by the Macomb County Sheriff's Department, and because of the lawsuit, they will not comment on the case. But following what happened with David Stojefski's death, they said they found no wrongdoing and pointed out that guards, who are sheriff's deputies, let the privately trained medical staff decide who needs to be hospitalized.
They said that since the Defenders started reporting on jail deaths, they have become much quicker to send inmates to the hospital when they ask for medical help.
Sign up for ClickOnDetroit Email Newsletters (click here) for more stories like this.