Somerset County Jail warden leaving
Somerset County Jail Warden Gregory Briggs is leaving his position for an associate warden job in Dauphin County. His last day is Oct. 19.
“It is hard to leave,” he said Thursday. “I know probably everybody says that. It’s a cliche, but it is really hard to leave. There is a lot of good staff members here.”
He described his idea of a good staff member.
“Loyal to the initiatives we are driving. Not always agreeing with the initiatives we are driving, but if we are driving them, they are standing behind them,” he said.
In a smaller jail, he said, personal relationships develop more quickly.
“That is what makes it harder to leave here, too,” he said.
He also knows the inmates, and he tries to find time on Fridays to make a round to talk with them about their concerns and triumphs.
“You celebrate their successes, and you also take some of the not-so-successful people and you want to change them a little because you want to see them succeed when they get out of here,” Briggs said.
He is involved in the court’s treatment court. He said that will be “hard to walk away from” because “we definitely see some (positive) changes.”
Started in 2016, the treatment court’s goal is to divert nonviolent offenders with substance-abuse problems from incarceration into supervised programs with treatment and demanding standards. The specialty court involves a team of volunteers from treatment, education and law enforcement.
Besides the staff, Briggs said he has had a lot of good bosses in Somerset County. District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser “has been great,” he said. He also cited good relationships with borough police and county detectives.
He said he is excited for the opportunity to grow professionally. Dauphin County’s seat is Harrisburg. The county has a population of about 270,000. The jail inmate population is about 1,400. Somerset County has a population of about 75,000 with a jail inmate population of about 100.
He will be working with larger numbers, but he believes that anyone “corrections-minded” can adapt and move forward no matter the size of the facility. Someone with that mindset keeps the safety of the staff and inmates in the forefront, he said.
“You have to be proactive (about) things that happen,” he said. “Think in advance. Think outside the box.”
Since becoming warden in 2011, Briggs has carried out numerous initiatives with the safety of staff and inmates always a priority. Without collaboration with other agencies and county officials, none of the changes at the jail would have been possible, he said Thursday. During Briggs’ tenure, a room was created inside the jail for children to visit parents and parenting classes were started for inmates.
Somerset County officials gave Briggs a $5,000 raise in 2016, hoping the pay increase would be incentive for the former Franklin County corrections officer to stay.
“We just want to show our appreciation for Greg performing an outstanding job,” Commissioner Gerald Walker said at the time. “We have got to keep our good employees.”
Briggs also is proud of his work in the community, where he has been a member of several boards.
“I guess I’ll be taking some of Somerset with me,” he said with a smile.