Every time Reggie Lighty suits up for another shift in the Lexington County Detention Center, he knows he has the opportunity to make a difference.
“These inmates, they might have done something or they might not have, but the fact is they have family out there that worry about them and love them,” Lighty said. “They’re in our custody and we’re taking care of their family members. We’re also keeping the community safe.”
His duties include checking on inmates every 15 minutes to ensure their safety. In August 2017, he was doing those checks with another correctional officer when he had the instinct to check more closely on an inmate who appeared to be sleeping. As he entered the cell, Lighty realized the inmate was attempting suicide with a string around his throat.
“I immediately ripped the string off and called for medical emergency and backup to the first floor,“ Lighty said. “As soon as I ripped the string off of his neck, he started gasping for breath. He was not responsive, he went into a seizure, I mean he was close to death.”
The inmate survived and thanks Lighty for giving him a second chance. The South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association named Lighty as the Jerry D. McDaniel Detention Officer of the Year for his actions. Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon called him an outstanding employee and says it’s well deserved.
“Their work is very important to what we do,” Koon said. “Having one of our own nominated and awarded as correctional officer of the year is huge and it should make us all proud, obviously, and uplift those folks to let them know their work every day does not go unnoticed.”
Since many members of the public will never know what goes on behind bars, Lighty knows the job is often misunderstood. He hopes this will help highlight the hard work that goes on and show that corrections is an opportunity to help change lives.
“We ourselves are trying to be a positive role model for them so they can see somebody who comes to work and does the right thing, fair, firm and consistent," Lighty said. “Hopefully some of that stuff rubs off on them so that when they get out, they can be productive members of the community.”