WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WBMA) – The Walker County Jail will soon receive new technology that will track the vitals of inmates in the booking and medical sections.
Justin White is the Administrator of the Walker County Jail. He said he believes this technology will only help.
“They’re the only one of their kind. After hearing from the company that offers them, I heard their agreement about what the system does, it’s just something that can be useful and that’s why,” White said.
The radar-based system uses the latest technology to monitor the heartbeat and breathing of inmates in their cells. The system will be connected to a computer monitor in their booking area and can be placed in the booking area and control rooms.
“It gives you an audible alert and then it brings up a visual alert, so if nobody’s on the cell it would just have a cell diagram and it would be black, if somebody is on the cell then the cell diagram is lit green and if there’s a problem it’s red and sets off the alarm as well,” White explained.
White said it will be monitored 24/7 and cover every cell in the reservation area. It is placed on the wall or ceiling of the cell.
“The reason we’re doing it in the booking area is because it’s a very critical time because that’s where we get all our inmates, so we don’t know what happened while they were on the road before they arrived,” said. The White one. “A lot of times they don’t want to be completely honest in the booking questionnaire process, so it gives us an ability to monitor them even if they’re not being honest about something they may have ingested or something like that . . .”
White said it also helps monitor general health issues of those in custody.
Although the Walker County Commission just approved the technology, which costs more than $60,000, White said it’s something they’ve been eyeing for months.
“We started discussing it in October. After that I brought it up to the committee to try to get things started and the process began,” White said.
More than a year ago, inmate Tony Mitchell, who had been incarcerated in Walker County, died. No cause of death has been released and no criminal charges have been filed. A civil lawsuit is still working its way through the court system.
We asked White, given that situation, why this technology is so important, to ensure mutual accountability for inmates and staff.
White responded, “We just want to take care of people. That’s our job. And so any means we can use to help accomplish that, that’s what we’re going to do.”
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When asked if this technology could be expanded to all cells, White explained that it will be in holding cells and smaller cells so they can determine which inmate it is monitoring. He said if there are options later to include an entire dormitory, that’s something that will be looked into.
“Safety is the top priority,” White said.
White could not give a timeline for when this technology will be implemented, but said the hope is in the near future.
People we spoke to supported the idea.
“That should help,” James Blackston said. “I never thought much of it, but it seems like it might be a good thing, if it helps the sheriff, Nick Smith, I kind of like him, I know there’s been some trouble down there, some trouble, but that maybe it is the case in every prison”.
Nathan Byrd said he believes he will give special attention to those who need it.
“I think just based on the premise of it, I think it’s going to be beneficial, I really do,” Byrd said. “It will depend on the person, of course, but I think with people with special, different needs, it can be very helpful.”
The Shelby County Jail has had similar technology for about a year now. Deputy Chief Clay Hammac said there are 16 harmless wristbands. Hammac explained via Bluetooth, it communicates with the nursing station. He said it allows indirect supervision and acute medical care for those who may need it most, who may be either under the influence or detoxing.
Hammac said each bracelet costs about $8,000. He said they are looking at funding opportunities to expand and possibly take on more.