The Cleveland County Jail announced a new heart monitoring system that searches for signs of distress in detainees and prevents in-custody deaths during a press conference on Thursday.
Custody Protect is a strap designed in collaboration with 4Sight Labs, which was founded in 2016 by its CEO John DeFalco, who said the combined expertise of law enforcement corrections, military and technology all contributed to the release of Custody Protect.
DeFalco said the strap is used as a bracelet or anklet consisting of materials including polyester, Kevlar and Velcro. It is easily sterilizable and requires skin contact to assess the detainee’s vitals. A quarter-sized green sensor is placed in the strap and assesses vitals for up to 45 seconds, DeFalco said.
Once the bracelet or anklet is applied, the detainee’s vitals can be seen by both the booking sergeant’s phone and the master control at the County Jail, DeFalco said. The booking officer will attach the technology to a new detainee if they seem to exhibit suicidal thoughts, depression or drug and alcohol use.
“In some cases, you're stopping a suicide attempt. In other cases, you're responding to somebody who just overdosed on drugs. There's a golden window where you can save people's lives,” DeFalco said. “This produces a mountain of data to show that the agency's personnel did everything humanly possible to save someone's life. So this is about saving people in custody. It's about accountability and transparency.”
DeFalco said the device is rechargeable, secure and well-made to endure detainees’ attempts to remove it from their body. The software program will be notified of any tampering and accounts for the heart rate variability of the body, whether it be stationary or exercising, to accurately consider other factors into the accelerated heart rate.
Cleveland County Sheriff Chris Amason said the software is easy for users to learn and the technology will first be distributed to 16 detainees. He said the Cleveland County Jail has 400-450 detainees on average, and believes it would be “cost-prohibitive” to distribute more at this time.
After looking at the causes for in-custody deaths, Amason said he decided to prioritize a new tool to lessen those opportunities.
“We want to mitigate the opportunities for people to have events that are going to take their lives, and to help those people at high risk. Our job is to protect everyone, whether it’s citizens or pretrial inmates,” Amason said.
With no grants to support the devices, DeFalco said the first 16 devices will be one price of $1,875 per detainee every year. Backups are ready in the event of one of the devices failing, and cellular connectivity is used so Wi-Fi will not affect the devices’ real-time response.
Amason said he hopes to expand the technology in the Cleveland County Jail and in Oklahoma, with a future goal of every officer carrying a device with them. He said “safety and security” are priorities, so he wanted to be proactive in finding a solution that prevented detainees from dying in custody.
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