In March, five days after Jessica Preston was charged for driving with a suspended license and placed in Macomb County Jail, she went into labor. She was kept in custody because she could not afford the $10,000 cash bond for her release.
Preston says (and security footage confirms) she told jail personnel at least three times that she had labor pains, but they didn't believe her and refused to let her go to the hospital. So the Michigan mom was forced to give birth on a dirty cell floor.
She said she was afraid for her baby because her due date was still a month away. Because she had complications delivering her first child, she had scheduled a C-section for April.
Her son, Elijah, was born behind bars, weighing under 5 pounds. Though the baby is now healthy, Preston's family is furious at how the situation was handled and hopes to spark change at the facility.
The family was not alerted until after she gave birth. Elijah's father, Thomas Chastain, was angry he missed the birth of his son.
"I didn't get to cut the cord ... didn't get to hold him," he told WDIV.
Preston's mother was terrified about the dangerous delivery and said she couldn't believe how anyone could say she wasn't have a baby when she was bleeding.
Elijah's paternal grandmother, Tina Chastain, believes personnel could have acted quicker.
"You can't do that to a human being," Tina told WDIV. "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?"
Sheriff Anthony Wickersham defends how jail and medical staff handled the situation. He told the Detroit News his staff evaluated Preston at least twice and didn't believe she was in labor. When she complained about labor pains again on March 20, she was brought to the jail infirmary and placed in a holding cell for nursing staff to evaluate her.
“They were on the phone, I understand, with the doctor, at which point the baby started to come. Medical staff helped deliver it. The ambulance was called and she went to the hospital," Wickersham said.
He also said Preston delivered on a mattress placed on the floor, and that the baby arrived unexpectedly before medical staff could decide to send the mom to the hospital.
Recently, Macomb County jail came under fire for the death of two prisoners. In 2013, 37-year-old mom Jennifer Meyers died of sepsis after being sentenced to spend 30 days in jail for not paying child support and staff wouldn't take her to the hospital. In 2014, David Stojcevski was also sentenced to 30 days in jail but for failing to appear in court on a traffic ticket for careless driving. He died from withdrawal from doctor-prescribed medication, while twitching and seizing, naked on the cell floor. Last year, federal prosecutors declined to file charges for Stojcevski's case, saying evidence did not support them.