MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham is stepping forward to address concerns over what led to a woman being forced to give birth on a dirty floor mat inside the Macomb County Jail.
Wickersham is standing by his staff in the face of a troubling video that shows Jessica Preston being sent back to her jail cell three times by medical staff members despite telling them she was having her baby.
Preston's incident is the latest in a string of medical incidents involving Macomb County Jail inmates asking for medical help and not receiving it.
Jennifer Meyers died when a virus turned into sepsis in July 2013. She was serving a 30-day sentence for failure to pay child support.
In June 2014, David Stojcevski died at the end of a brutal 17-day drug withdrawal. His 30-day sentence was for failure to pay traffic tickets.
Preston was sent to jail while she was eight months pregnant and forced to give birth on the floor of her cell.
Wickersham said he is 100 percent confident that the medical staff acted accordingly, admitting it would have been a better situation if Preston had been at the hospital for the delivery. But he said Elijha came too fast, even though on camera, Preston is seen going to medical staff members three times over a seven-hour period.
"Two (employees) were working that day," Wickersham said. "They were on the phone with the doctor. The information at that time, the baby started to come, they took her off the cot, which is close to the wall, put her on the floor on a mattress and the baby was delivered."
"But we both know that she was there in the morning at 7, again at 11:30, again at 1 p.m.," Local 4 Defender Kevin Dietz said. "She had blood on her leg, and still the baby wasn't born until 2:45. The hospital is, what, two, three minutes away?"
"It's about three minutes away," Wickersham said. "I don't have the medical records. The mother has them. I think that in all fairness the medical records should be brought out and let the people see what the medical staff did each time she was brought down.
"Could we have more medical staff? Should we have a full-time doctor on staff 24 hours a day? Obviously, that is going to cost taxpayers more money to increase that kind of contract."
"Have you requested that?" Dietz asked.
"We put it out to contract this," Wickersham said. "We had one bid. This is the contract. This is the company. It's within our budget. We have to look at that next time up."
The bottom line is that if residents want inmates to have better treatment in the Macomb County Jail, taxpayers need to be prepared to pay for it.
Wickersham said there are 1,200 inmates on any given day, and very few have problems. He said it might look like Preston gave the medical staff plenty of notice on camera, but he's not going to second guess their decision not to send her to the hospital.
Since the Local 4 Defenders' investigation into the Macomb County Jail, more inmates that ever before are being taken to the hospital when there are medical issues.
Macomb County commissioned a study about how to better treat addicted and mentally ill inmates because of the Defenders stories. The results will be presented in April.
Macomb County Jail's history
The Macomb County Jail has been the focus of a two-year Defenders investigation. On July 7, 2013, 37-year-old mother Jennifer Meyers died in the jail after being sentenced to spend 30 days behind bars for not paying child support. The staff wouldn't take Meyers to the hospital even though cellmates were trying to cool her fever with wet cloths and begged medical staff members to help. After 12 days, Meyers died of sepsis.
"I could feel her dying, and there was nothing I could do," a family member said.
More on Meyers' case:
Eleven months later, on June 27, 2014, David Stojcevski died inside the Macomb County Jail. Stojcevski was behind bars to serve a 30-day sentence for failing to appear in court on a traffic ticket for careless driving. He lost nearly 50 pounds in 17 days and died from withdrawal from doctor-prescribed medication. His last 10 days are on video, as jail and medical staff members watched him twitch and seize naked on the cell floor until his body was too weak to take another breath.
"Why don't you call 911 to help him? Why (did) you let him die on the floor, cold, sweaty, asking for help and you guys don't care," Stojcevski's family said.
More on Stojcevski's case: