Corrections officers petition Whitaker to reinstate Lawson

Lawson: Admin Ineffective, Unprofessional,and Uncaring

WINNSBORO – After Fairfield County Detention Center Director Teresa Lawson resigned abruptly Thursday, July 14, 16 of the 18 corrections officers at the detention center signed a petition calling on County Administrator Malik Whitaker to reinstate Lawson, to provide adequate staffing at the detention center and to increase their pay which was cut by 10 percent this budget year. They say the conditions at the Detention Center are dangerous without adequate staffing.

In her resignation letter to Whitaker, Lawson wrote that she felt undermined by county administration to the point that she can no longer effectively do her job.

Lawson is the seventh top county official to leave or be pushed out in the last 18 months. Two others have announce they will be running for elective office in November.

After the story of her resignation broke on The Voice’s Facebook page the evening of July 14, WIS-TV interviewed Lawson at her home in Chester five days later about her resignation.

On Wednesday, July 20, the majority of officers at the detention center submitted the signed petition to Whitaker with copies to council.

In an exclusive interview with The Voice, Lawson said she was desperate for two additional officers on the floor, but that those two positions had been frozen last year. She said that as she watched the May 23 county council meeting, to her surprise, council voted 5-2  to approve $55,000 for a correctional officer position and 5-2 for a $90,000 deputy director position at the detention center without having consulted her. She said Whitaker posted a job for the deputy director around the first of July without her input.

In a press release dated July 15, Whitaker stated, “The decision to hire a deputy director, who can also serve in some capacity as a corrections officer, was made to assist with the current staffing concerns. A deputy director will also provide additional leadership and assist with developing a long-range recruitment and retention plan for employees. “

“I didn’t need a deputy director. I already had a captain,” Lawson said. “That $90,000 would have been better spent to provide more officers and an increase in salary for the ones we have. We are understaffed, overworked, in danger, and need some relief,” she said. “This is a very dangerous job without adequate staffing.”

She said in her resignation letter that the current administration has been ineffective, unprofessional, uncaring and unreachable. Lawson said she has worked for the county for almost 40 years and has served as detention center director for about the last 10 years.

 “Failure to address staffing concerns and other critical issues has made this position impossible to succeed in,” Lawson wrote in her letter to Whitaker.

She said she also learned that three of the four applicants for the deputy director position are related, leaving the door open for nepotism. She said she was told that the applicants would be interviewed not by her but by a committee chosen by Whitaker.

Lawson said there are currently 20 officers manning the jail with more than 60 inmates. She said that is a dangerous ratio and that they have had injuries because of inadequate staffing in recent months.

Lawson gave examples in her resignation letter as to why she was resigning.

“Raises have been requested and denied,” she wrote to Whitaker. “We are in desperate need of officers on the floor, not in administration.

“As of right now we have 22 violent offenders and several mental health inmates that require additional security,” she wrote.

She wrote that an audit by the SC Association of Counties’ insurance provider shows that the detention center’s low staffing is at a dangerous level.

“The mental stress and frustration with this administration is too much for me to carry,” Lawson wrote.

“If this continues, it will place my health, the safety of the staff, inmates and the citizens which we protect, in jeopardy,” she wrote. “The Fairfield County Detention Center, like all [the county’s] emergency departments, are in a crash and burn state.”

Captain Harriet Squirewell, of the Fairfield Detention Center, is assuming operation command of the center.


  1. sheniqua cook says

    Seeking that The Fairfield County Administration and County Council hear us out and understand the points that were made in our petition, hoping to seek a change and ask that the three that voted against our favor to ask not be bias but more so understanding to the employees of the Fairfield County Detention Center.-Officer Cook

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