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New Somerset County Jail deputy warden has familiar face

January 10, 2019

Dennis Vought, known to be quiet, dependable and affable in his longtime stint as a corrections officer in the Somerset County Jail, did not know when he applied for deputy warden that he would make or break that position.

“The deputy warden position, I wasn’t sure I was going to fill it,” jail Warden Michael Porter said.

Vought started as deputy warden on Dec. 22. His promotion was officially recognized by the Somerset County commissioners during a special meeting Monday.

The position had been vacant since John Caron experienced a “separation from employment” as deputy warden on Nov. 30. County officials did not explain the circumstances surrounding the move.

“I didn’t know how I wanted my structure. When you come from a 2,000-bed facility to a 150-bed facility, it is a big difference,” Porter said.

Porter was hired as warden about two months ago to replace Greg Briggs, who left in October to take an associate warden job in Dauphin County.

“I see things different from how other people would, just from my experience, my background and where I’ve been,” Porter said. “I wasn’t sure if I needed one (deputy warden).”

Vought changed his mind.

“It was his work ethic. Me and him had several talks,” he said. “Denny is very respected by the officers, and me, I respect him.”

Porter believes in providing as many opportunities as possible to those who can be an asset.

“I told him if he wasn’t going to take the position, I wasn’t going to do it (fill the position),” Porter said.

He was pleased when Vought accepted.

“I didn’t go through the whole (hiring) process. I appointed him, because he was the only fit, I thought, going forward in the direction we needed to go,” Porter said.

Vought began working as a corrections officer in the county jail in January 1998.

Vought said he wants to be an asset to the jail, as well as the community, through leadership, dedication and loyalty.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity,” he said.

Vought and Porter have become a team, both said in a sit-down chat Wednesday in the office they share.

“We are here for the same motives, safety and security for the building, the staff and the community,” Vought said.

There are 30 full-time corrections officers and a total of 55 employees at the jail. On average, there are more than 100 inmates housed there, and there can be tight quarters.

“We have a lot of trust,” Porter said. “We have a lot in common. We have a lot of common ideals. The way that we want things. Denny can make any decision he wants, and he doesn’t have to come to me; I trust his decisions.”

One of Vought’s responsibilities as deputy warden is to join Porter in overseeing staff training.

“Training is highly valuable,” Vought said. “Our staff is highly trained right now and will continue to be.”

Porter has made changes in his two months as warden. He believes in training for the staff and in rehabilitation and structure for the inmates, as does Vought.

Porter cited one of his rules: “Every morning they (the inmates) have to get up and make their beds now and from 8 to 5 they’re in uniform and their beds are made. If nothing else you can’t change the world if you don’t start out by making the bed.”

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