The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department announced that it is working on a new pilot program involving a monitoring device that will be placed on an inmate’s wrist to record their vital signs. SDSO said the program will focus on some of their most at-risk people.
There have been 18 deaths in custody so far this year according to the SDSO, as law enforcement, city and county leaders and community members seek ways to stop the deaths.
4Sight Labs is the company behind this health monitoring device similar to a Fitbit or Apple Watch. CEO John DeFalco said the device is secure and robust for use on people in custody and can monitor things like heart rate and how people are physically moving.
“It is not enough human effort to monitor people in custody, you must monitor their vital signs continuously from the time they are arrested and transported to police stations and county jails to protect them 24 hours a day. 24,” DeFalco said. .
But, there is cautious optimism from families who have seen a loved one die in custody.
“I think it’s a step for the sheriff of San Diego to say we’re trying,” Sabrina Weddel said.
According to the county, there have been 15 such deaths so far this year, including five in July alone. NBC 7’s Mari Payton has more.
Weddel’s brother, Saxon Rodriguez, died last summer in a San Diego County jail from a fentanyl overdose. She said she was skeptical of the pilot program, but hopes inmate safety will improve.
“I mean I’m glad the creators have created something to try to save lives and if it helps I hope they can maybe take a look at the drug-seeking machine because it’s failing “, Weddel said.
Paloma Serna’s daughter died in Las Colinas detention center in November 2019.
“It will work if we have MPs who actually do what they are supposed to do,” Serna said. “First of all, they have to monitor the inmates, they can’t just rely on a device.”
Both women raise transparency and accountability concerns from the sheriff’s department.
The cost of the program is approximately $1,000 per unit and is funded from the current Sheriff’s Department budget.
SDSO said the devices will be placed on a consensus basis on those deemed medically vulnerable. Their vital signs and movements will be monitored by deputies and medical staff who will be alerted to any changes in the person’s condition.
The law enforcement agency acknowledges some challenges such as battery life, device size, and the increased staff work needed to support the program.
“The reality of today’s inmate is very difficult, where the crisis in the country with the opioid epidemic, mental health, the things that are happening on the streets of cities across the country all eventually come down in the hands of law enforcement and corrections as arrestees under the system,” DeFalco said.
The sheriff’s department said it plans to keep the public updated on the progress of this program, which will be implemented in the coming weeks.
In August, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an emergency measure to address the number of drug overdose deaths in San Diego County jails.