In second week of testing at Deschutes County Jail, high-tech “RiskWatch” may have saved a life

AliveLock RiskWatch

AliveLock RiskWatch

The Deschutes County jail is testing a new monitoring device that sheriff’s officials say helped save the life of a 63-year-old inmate Wednesday.

According to Deschutes County sheriff’s Capt. Shane Nelson, the AliveLock RiskWatch monitors pulse rate and oxygen levels. The office has been testing the device for two weeks, Nelson wrote in an email Thursday. Only inmates in the medical/mental health ward who have undergone an assessment are eligible for the devices.

At about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, a corrections deputy noticed a female inmate coughing. As he entered her cell, the AliveLock RiskWatch signaled an alarm of a low oxygen level and confirmed she was in need of medical attention. He then performed the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge a piece of food from her throat. The device was a “valuable extra layer of protection,” Nelson wrote.

The Deschutes County jail is the first in Oregon to use the company’s technology, AliveLock’s CEO, Melanie Bailey, said in a statement.

AliveLock bills itself as “the industry leader in continuous monitoring for at-risk individuals,” and is created especially for correctional facilities and law enforcement agencies, according to its website. The website states that a central radio transmission device, called a base station, sends and receives RiskWatch data.

A 22,800-square-foot, $11 million addition to the jail, completed last year, included a 1,800-square-foot medical and mental health wing. Sheriff Larry Blanton, whose last day in office is Tuesday and who will be replaced by Nelson, said in a statement that the incident showed the expansion was “valuable” to inmates.

“The remodel has created an environment that allows deputies to be in close proximity to special-needs inmates,” Blanton said. The choking inmate was in the remodeled medical and mental health area of the jail. The area, which has six cells total, includes two set aside for suicide monitoring. And the recently approved Deschutes County budget provides funding so that the jail can be staffed at all times by nurses.

The sheriff’s office is facing a $10.7 million lawsuit filed by the family of Edwin Burl Mays III, who died of a methamphetamine overdose in the booking area of the jail in December. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel referred the death investigation to the Oregon Department of Justice in March.

Another inmate, Eben Kaneshiro, hanged himself in the jail using a bed sheet April 26.