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New tech at Arlington Co. Jail hopes to improve inmate safety

Biometric sensors will soon monitor the vitals of the most at-risk inmates in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

ARLINGTON COUNTY, Va. — New technology will soon be up and running inside the Arlington County Detention Facility that could help save lives. The 13 story high rise jail currently houses 300 inmates. Sheriff Jose Quiroz is in charge of making sure those inmates are kept safe. 

Currently, officers conduct checks every 15 minutes inside the jail. Vital checks with a doctor and nurse are done every four hours. But with the nation's opioid crisis and people dealing with complex mental health issues, sometimes that is not enough. 

"There is such an acute crisis out there because of the drug epidemic, that we need new tools to do this job in today's world," said John DeFalco, CEO of 4Sight Labs

DeFalco and his company created biometric sensors, similar to an Apple Watch, that can monitor someone's heartrate and vitals. Soon, some of the most at-risk inmates at the Arlington Jail will be wearing these sensors. The devices are kept on 24 hours a day, monitoring someone every second they are in custody. 

"The idea is that as soon as a detainee has vitals that are out of bounds, people go running to help that person and, God willing, you get there in time to save their life," said DeFalco. 

Cutting down response times to help someone in crisis can often be the difference between life or death. Over the last several years, the Arlington Jail has faced a lot of scrutiny. There have been several inmate deaths, a transition to a new medical vendor and a recently settled lawsuit. 

"I think the community expects transparency and I also want to be transparent. I think that builds a relationship with the community where they feel they can trust and ensure their loved ones are safe in the facility," said Quiroz. 

During the first part of the rollout, 12 of these biometric sensors will be used to monitor inmates in the medical unit. They will watch for chronic health conditions, drug withdrawals, even suicide attempts. 

Credit: 4Sight Labs

“These are people’s family members, friends and citizens of our community, so making sure they’re safe and taken care of is my number one priority," Quiroz said. 

The biometric monitors are purchased through a yearly subscription. The cost is about $1,800 a year per device. The 12 monitors in the Arlington Jail were funded through a pilot program with the county. Sheriff Quiroz tells WUSA9 if this is successful, he hopes to expand the monitors throughout beyond just the infirmary. 

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