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Deputy warden out at Somerset County Jail

December 5, 2018

The Somerset County Prison Board accepted a “separation from employment” involving Deputy Warden John Caron after a short executive session and an unanimous vote Tuesday.

When asked what this means — did Caron resign, was he laid off or was he fired — the board was silent.

“We don’t comment on personnel matters,” solicitor Michael Barbera said.

That said, earlier in the meeting, new Somerset County Jail Warden Michael Porter told board members the job description of deputy warden is being reworked to better define the role.

Caron did not attend the meeting. He was hired as deputy warden on April 17, 2017, after then-Deputy Warden Adele Bauer retired.

Caron worked at a prison in New Hampshire and lived in Vermont when hired for the jail’s second-in-command position. He brought 28 years of experience with him.

Porter, formerly of Burleson, Texas, took the helm at the jail three weeks ago. He replaced Warden Greg Briggs, who left in October to take an associate warden job in Dauphin County.

Tablets working

Porter told the board Monday that the jail’s new tablets “are working great.”

“Pretty much we’ve gone from (the) paper request,” he said. “It is going to the tablet. If they have any medical problems, it is going to the tablet. Everything goes to the tablet. It has taken a lot of paper trail out of the way.”

Board member and District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser asked if every inmate has a tablet.

Porter responded that every inmate has access to a tablet.

“There are four tablets in each wing,” he said.

Inmates sign out the handheld devices, which are similar to iPads, at a charging station and sign the device in when they are done.

The inmates do not have to pay to make requests on the tablets. They do have to pay to correspond with family members and to download and watch select TV shows and movies, among other things.

“The tablets do not cost the county anything,” Porter said.

In fact, a certain percentage of the money that the inmates or their family members pay to use the tablets, provided by Global Tel-Link, is paid back to the county every month by the company, he added. He was not sure what that percentage is, nor was anyone else on the board.

Jail getting crowded

The inmate population in the jail was 147 Tuesday morning, according to Porter. The average population in November was 129, he said.

Board members said they have some concerns about the rise in the inmate population.

“If that becomes a problem, then we will deal with it then,” Barbera said.

The jail population reached its highest number in seven years in May at 135. The jail has a capacity of about 150 inmates, according to prison officials.

On Wednesday, 78 defendants are up for revocation because of alleged parole or probation violations. Many of them will be sent to jail after being resentenced for proven violations. President Judge D. Gregory Geary, who sits on the prison board, reminded the members about what was coming.

“We’ll be ready for you,” the warden responded.

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