41ºF

Woman forced to give birth on floor of filthy Macomb County Jail cell files lawsuit against county

Jessica Preston says jail staff members refused to take her to hospital

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – There are new developments in the report uncovered by the Local 4 Defenders about a woman who said she was forced to give birth on the floor of a filthy cell inside the Macomb County Jail.

Jessica Preston was pulled over for having a rosary around her rearview mirror and jailed for driving on a suspended license. She told staff members at the Macomb County Jail that she was eight months pregnant and had already scheduled a C-section because she was a high-risk pregnancy.

But when she went into labor in her jail cell and begged to go to the hospital, she said nobody would take her.

Preston said even when enjoys an afternoon with her son, the night terrors come back as she flashes back to Elijah's dangerous deliver on the dirty floor of the cell by staffers who had never delivered a baby before.

"I've been diagnosed with some PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Preston said. "I have nightmares and some trauma from it."

She was in jail for a first offense of driving on a suspended license. As she waited for her day in court, she went into labor.

According to her lawsuit just filed in federal court, she pressed the emergency button in her jail cell and asked to go to the hospital.

"They said, 'No. We don't believe you,'" Preston said. "I was kind of in shock."

When the contractions became more intense, Preston hit the emergency button again.

"They told me the second time, 'Knock your s--- off. You know we can charge you if you don't knock it off,'" Preston said.

She said she was bleeding badly and didn't know if she was losing the baby, so she hit the button a third time. This time, she was told to carry her belongings to the medical unit. Staff members still didn't call an ambulance.

Elijah was born 45 minutes later. His birth certificate lists the Macomb County Jail as his place of birth.

"I don't understand why not one deputy, not a nurse, not anyone in a position to do anything even cared," Preston said.

Her attorney, Robert Ihrie, said the incident never should have happened.

"There are no apologies," Ihrie said. "There seems to be very little concern as to the wreckage that is left behind by the type of deliberate indifference that we see at the jail."

Ihrie said the lawsuit will force the jail and medical staffs to explain why they chose not to believe Preston.

"How they could say that in the face of the facts that were right in front of them, I have no idea," Ihrie said. "They're going to have to explain that to a jury."

Two years later, Elijah is doing well. Preston said she hopes her lawsuit prevents any other babies from being born behind bars.

"That's ultimately where I want this to go," Preston said. "I want something to change. Something needs to be done."

The lawsuit names several defendants, including Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham.

The county attorney has already filed a motion to dismiss Wickersham from the suit.

In order to win, Preston's attorney must prove the jail or medical staff members intentionally ignored her well-being.


About the Authors: