Arlington Co. to outfit jail inmates with biometric wrist monitors

The Arlington County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office is rolling out new technology that’s the first of its kind in the D.C. area. Inmates booked into the county’s detention center could eventually all be fitted for biometric wrist monitors to track their vital signs.

“Once you come to jail, it’s not a sentence to death,” said Sheriff Jose Quiroz, who said he’s wary of the Arlington County Detention Center’s previous track record.

“Preventing deaths and loss in our facility was my top priority when I became Sheriff,” said Quiroz, who has only been in office for about four months so far. “Running a safe and progressive jail focused on safety and rehabilitation is one of my key initiatives.”

Quiroz said he researched the new technology extensively, which is how he found 4sight Labs and John DeFalco.

“We use biometric sensors that are more like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit,” DeFalco told WTOP. From San Francisco, his company 4sight provides this type of technology to law enforcement agencies to promote better medical care for incarcerated individuals.

The new devices can be worn on the wrist or ankle. Custody Protect, the technology 4sight will employ, uses biosensors on individuals that can detect heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration, motion and location through technology. All of this data is processed through artificial intelligence in real-time to detect risks to health and safety.

“Our system uses artificial intelligence to alert officers if there’s any sign on danger,” DeFalco added.

The sheriff said the technology will allow officers to more quickly take action.

“It’ll enable our officers to respond to medical emergencies in seconds,” Quiroz said, adding that those seconds can be incredibly precious when dealing with inmates who have health conditions — or those going through drug withdrawal symptoms.

“Due to the crisis with the opioid epidemic, and the mental health epidemic, it’s incredibly tough to understand the medical needs of detainees,” DeFalco said. He agrees with Quiroz that this can help inmates in their rehab process.

The sheriff said that’s a central aim of the initiative.

“Getting them back into the community to be productive,” Quiroz explained. “There’s no amount of money you can place on someone’s life.”

The sheriff said Arlington County’s detention facility will start with a pilot program of the new monitors in the jail’s medical unit — with the goal of a wider rollout after a test period.

In a news release the sheriff’s office stated it will do a “limited rollout” this month starting with the medical unit; those with underlying conditions, a possible background of mental health issues and inmates with possible withdrawal concerns related to alcohol or drug use.

The news release added “the current goal is to get the medical unit outfitted and operational, and then consider expanding to the rest of the detention facility.”

Matt Kaufax

If there's an off-the-beaten-path type of attraction, person, or phenomenon in the DC area that you think more people should know about, Matt is your guy. As the features reporter for WTOP, he's always on the hunt for stories that provide a unique local flavor—a slice of life if you will.

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