Macomb County Jail report points out flaws in justice system, makes recommendations
MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – A 164-page report by a liability company on the Macomb County Jail is critical of the county’s justice system and offers recommendations for operations to run more smoothly.
The report makes several claims, including:
- fragmented court system contributes to case delays,
- very high percentage of jail beds occupied by pretrial defendants,
- extremely high percentage of pretrial defendants in jail with 'holds' from other jurisdictions,
- lake of parity between prosecution and defense counsel resources,
- high dismissal rate for domestic violence offenses,
- public order offenses impact the jail,
- terrible impact of drugs,
- significant mental health involvement,
- lower risk defendants serving jail sentences,
- unfulfilled potential for use of jail alternatives,
- over-reliance on jail as a disposition for misdemeanor offenses,
- high percentage of females,
- shortfalls in jail treatment an re-entry services,
- high number of offenders return to jail,
- heavy reliance on fees and fines,
- uneven philosophy regarding procedural justice,
- critical lack of jail and criminal justice system data,
- jail overcrowding undermines system efforts,
- antiquated jail facility.
The 19 major flaws are detailed in the report and several recommendations are made to improve the county's justice system.
"The study is a good blueprint for us as a county to make informative decisions on the Macomb County Jail and the criminal justice system," Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said. "More in depth information will be presented to the Board of Commissioners on May 11th, 2017."
The report was conducted by Voorhis/Robertson Justice Services in association with David Bennett Consulting and Donna Lattin Consulting, and it was commissioned by Wickersham and County Executeve Mark Hackel.
The full report is available here and at the bottom of this article.
The report comes after the Local 4 Defenders reported two deaths at the county jail and how a woman delivered a baby while behind bars.
Macomb County Jail's history
A Metro Detroit mother is sharing her story of a dangerous delivery behind bars after she found herself going into labor in the Macomb County Jail.
Jessica Preston was in the Macomb County Jail on a simple driving offense -- driving on a suspended license -- when she went into labor.
Video shows Preston going to medical staff three times, telling them she was having her baby. But the staff didn't believe her.
Preston's incident happened at the same jail in which two different people who were not hospitalized died behind bars. The jail is showing a pattern of inmates with serious medical emergencies being refused transport to the hospital.
There's something special about a baby's first Christmas, and Preston's son, Elijha, was happy and healthy for his. But nine months ago, he suffered a traumatic injustice no baby should endure. He was born on a jail cell floor in filth because the medical staff at the Macomb County Jail refused to let his mother go to the hospital to give birth.
Elijha's father missed the birth of his son.
"I didn't get to cut the cord," Thomas Chastain said. "(I) didn't get to hold him."
Chastain was angry that jail staff members refused to let his wife go to the hospital.
"How could this be happening?" Chastain said. "This is not the right time, not the right place. It's a month early. Is he going to be OK?"
Preston was pulled over for driving on a suspended license -- her first offense -- when she was eight months pregnant. The judge ordered her to pay $10,000 cash bond, but when Preston didn't have the money, she was locked up until her court date five days later.
Elijha was born behind bars weighing under 5 pounds. The delivery was dangerous for him and his mother.
Preston's mother was terrified her daughter or grandson would die.
"They didn't believe her," Linda Preston said. "They just left her (to) lay there. They didn't care. They just kept saying she wasn't having the baby, and I don't know how anybody could say when she was bleeding, 'You're not having a baby,' and that they didn't send her to the hospital. Who makes that call?
"Everybody just looked at her like she was a piece of dirt."
Elijha's paternal grandmother was looking forward to witnessing the birth and watching her son cut the cord, but that didn't happen.
"You can't do that to a human being," Tina Chastain said. "You can't. It's not right. It's inhumane. How's it going to affect them to grow up to be an adult, knowing that (he) was born on the floor of a jail cell and wrapped up in a dirty sheet?"
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:
- Young mother dies during 30-day sentence in Macomb County Jail
- Woman dies in Macomb County Jail after not having $500 to pay court
- Parents heartbroken over daughter's death in Macomb County Jail
- Parents of woman who died in Macomb County Jail warn of drug addiction
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:
- FBI investigating Macomb County Jail inmate's death
- Man jailed for ticket dies in custody
- DOJ: Macomb County Jail inmate death case lacks sufficient evidence for criminal charges
- Sheriff responds to Macomb County Jail death
Two deaths and a baby born behind bars would make anybody angry. Sheriff Tony Wickersham is in charge of the Macomb County Jail. After the Stojcevski death, he went public and said the privately hired medical staff makes the decisions. He said his deputies only follow their lead.
"We have not identified any prosecutable violations of federal criminal law, therefore our investigation is closed," Wickersham said.
Preston's first baby was born via an emergency cesarean section. For the mother's safety, Elijha was going to be born via a cesarean section, too. But since the birth happened behind bars, that didn't happen, and he was born prematurely.
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