Sheriff Defends Jail Staff Who Forced Woman to Give Birth On Cell Floor: 'We Really Don't Know When That Baby Is Going to Come'

Image via surveillance video/CBS
Image via surveillance video/CBS

A Michigan sheriff is defending his staff after a woman was forced to give birth on the floor of a jail cell last year, the result of authorities refusing to believe her when she told them she was going into labor.


According to CBS, 27-year-old Jessica Preston was eight months pregnant when she was arrested in March 0f 2016 for driving on a suspended license. After she was unable to post her $10,000 bail, she was put behind bars in Macomb County Jail while she awaited a court date.

But when Preston complained to staff about labor-related pains, they accused her of lying, WDIV Local 4 reports. She began to bleed, but instead of going to the hospital in an ambulance, she was moved to an on-site infirmary:

“I was called a liar and told to knock my crap off or they could put another charge on me,” Preston told Channel 4. “I should have gone (to the hospital) first thing in the morning, but when I come to you bleeding, 8 months pregnant, you go to the hospital.”

A surveillance video that captured Preston’s nightmare shows her asking three times to go to the infirmary. She finally gave birth five days later, on a dirty mattress on the floor and without the help of a doctor.

“I was scared,” Preston told CBS. “I was terrified — I was so worried for both of us that either one of us could catch something that would be life-threatening.”

But Sheriff Tony Wickersham contends that the jail’s medical staff handled the situation appropriately:

“I’m 100 percent that our people did what they need to do,” Wickersham said. “At some point, she said she had to go to the hospital, the baby came before that happened.” He added:“In these situations we really don’t know when that baby is going to come.”


Don’t we? Labor pains seem like a pretty good predictor as to when a baby is getting ready to be born. But Wickersham, who apparently moonlights as the world’s shittiest doula, insists there was simply no way of knowing:

“Again, do I like to have babies born in our jail? No,” Wickersham said. “But in these situations — as anybody out on the street, any husband and wife know — driving to the hospital, sometimes that baby comes out. They pull over, and I know our deputies have delivered babies on the side of the road.”

“Obviously the story’s out there; the things we should’ve done, and obviously we’re looking at all of our situations,” he added. “But as sheriff I look at all this and our staff and the medical staff acted appropriately.”


Preston’s baby—now a happy 9-month-old named Elijah—was thankfully born unharmed. Which does not at all suggest that allowing a woman to deliver a baby on a mattress in a dirty jail cell is remotely humane or legal. After Elijah was born, Preston returned to Macomb County for an additional five days behind bars while she awaited her court date.

“I wouldn’t want that happening to my worst enemy, anybody else, and that’s why I am telling this story,” Preston said. “I would never want it happening to anyone ever again.”


Cherith Cutestory

“But in these situations — as anybody out on the street, any husband and wife know — driving to the hospital, sometimes that baby comes out.”

Speaking as a person on the street, it is true that everything I know about labor comes from 80s sitcoms. He’s got a point there.

But I feel like giving birth in an ambulance isn’t the same as like a taxi or Balki’s moped or whatever.