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Georgia County Sheriff's Office Touts New Technology

In a recent quarterly briefing, representatives of the Cobb County Sheriff's Office touted a series of new technology purchases they said are aimed at improving safety for deputies and inmates.

(TNS) — In a recent quarterly briefing, representatives of the Cobb County Sheriff's Office touted a series of new technology purchases they said would improve safety for deputies and inmates.

Among them were previously-announced measures to combat the inmate deaths that have occurred under the tenure of both Sheriff Craig Owens and his predecessor, Neil Warren. Six inmates have died in custody since Owens took office in January 2021, three of those during May of this year.

In November, Owens said the jail would be providing around-the-clock mental health services to inmates, a program he said was the first of its kind in Georgia. Col. Temetris Atkins, who's charged with overseeing jail operations, acknowledged detention facilities have increasingly become de facto mental health providers.

"Unfortunately with the closure of hospitals, we're seeing those individuals, and what the sheriff wants to do is to be able to respond to them, and give them proactive-type programs that will assist them," Atkins said.

Shortly after taking office, Owens said all investigations of jail deaths would be turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). While the move was intended to provide a degree of third-party accountability to the investigations, Atkins was tight-lipped about their progress.

"I can't speak in too much depth because they're still open cases," Atkins said, later adding, "I'm happy to say that (the GBI) said we've done what we're supposed to do in many of the instances."

GBI spokesperson Nelly Miles told the MDJ of the six inmates who have died, the bureau elected to investigate three of them. One of those investigations has been completed with its findings presented to the Cobb District Attorney's office (the GBI does not make a determination of whether misconduct occurred).

More recently, Owens and Atkins announced a partnership with Alabama-based Black Creek Integrated Systems to equip inmates with wristbands which track their location and heart rate. Atkins said those devices would be deployed by July 1, beginning in the jail's infirmary.

Additional forthcoming measures on Atkins' end will be the creation of a "compliance" area within the jail, where low-risk inmates who have been incarcerated for 30 days without incident can be transferred.

"This was started by the sheriff receiving calls from concerned family members and friends saying ... 'Johnny is not a bad guy. He just had a problem. He just got into trouble, but he's in this facility with all these bad people,'" Atkins said.

Upon transfer to the area, the jail's "best inmates" will have increased access to educational materials, Atkins said, along with a messaging system for inmates to communicate with their families at lower cost than phone calls. The educational materials, meanwhile, can be used to satisfy court-imposed class requirements such as anger management.

Rounding out the new technologies, Owens plans to roll out is a fleet of mobile trauma kits, backpack-sized first aid devices designed to guide first responders through providing emergency aid. Upon opening, the device features a touch-screen interface which guides the responder through the care steps, along with a bevy of first aid materials.

"It combines not only the equipment that is so integral, that you need when that time comes, but it also reinforces the training, and it reinforces the skills inside of the rescue," said Ryan Peck of Zoll Medical, which manufactures the devices.

© 2022 Marietta Daily Journal, Ga. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.