Sometimes you hear a news story that compels you to read more about it. Such was the case this morning when I popped on the tv and heard about Jessica Preston, a woman who was pulled over in mid-March 2016, initially because she had a rosary and cross hanging from the rear-view mirror in her car, supposedly obstructing her view of the road. That was just the beginning.
Ms. Preston was driving on a suspended driver’s license – not good. She also had outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions – also not good. A $10,000 bond was set, which she could not pay, so she was given a 14-day sentence.
She was eight months pregnant at the time, and scheduled for a cesarean-section delivery the following month. No one at the jail seemed concerned about this, and no one notified her family that she was there.
Ms. Preston told them at some point that she had started having contractions, but the jail staff assumed she was just trying to get out of jail. Then she started bleeding, and again asked for help. Not only would they not take her to the hospital, they threatened to slap extra charges on her if she didn’t stop lying to them.
She continued to have contractions. Five days later, she was taken to a room in the jail infirmary. At that point, someone finally decided to call the doctor. Surveillance footage that CBS News obtained showed Ms. Preston on the floor giving birth, with five jail staff around her (the doctor did not arrive in time). The jail says they threw a mattress on the floor for her, but in the grainy picture it doesn’t look like more than an exercise mat. Ms. Preston and the baby were finally taken to the hospital. The baby was alright, albeit premature and weighing under five pounds. The mother was sent back to jail to serve the rest of her time.
The more I look at this story, the more questions I have. Why would someone be pulled over for having a rosary on their rear-view mirror? I’ve seen plenty of people driving around with huge handicapped signs dangling from mirrors. Why wasn’t the jail even willing to call her doctor’s office to verify that she indeed had a higher-risk pregnancy and had been scheduled for a cesarean delivery? It would have taken way less time than the time they spent arguing with her. Why was her family not notified – what happened to being allowed to make a call home? Was there not even one hospital-type bed in the jail infirmary to put her in to deliver? How often is there a doctor in the building? And why did it take almost a year for this news story to be revealed?
I understand that people have to be punished when they do something illegal – but the punishment needs to fit the crime. And putting the life of an unborn baby in jeopardy is unconscionable. Ms. Preston obviously talked to many jail employees during her stay at the jail, none of whom would lift a finger to do what was right and decent. All I can do is shake my head in amazement at the sad state of the jail system in our state.