Southside Regional Jail Lt. Samantha Robinson is determined to have a good day.
This determination, she said, takes the form of staying positive in all she does, and trying to bring that positive energy to her job every day.
“I like to bring a positive environment every day we work,” Robinson said. “The attitude you bring in when you get here, it’s going to carry through the whole jail. Then everyone is going to have a bad day, and I’m not trying to have a bad day.”
Robinson, who grew up in Lawrenceville and graduated from Brunswick County High School in 1994, never felt she would end up working at a jail, though she realized she had the gifts for it when she started.
“I’ve always been good with people,” Robinson said.
After graduation, Robinson wanted a bigger city experience, so she moved to Manassas, in Northern Virginia, which made it easy to take weekend trips to Washington, D.C., and worked at BJ’s Wholesale Club for a while.
A pregnancy necessitated her to move back home, then after her first child was born, she worked in home health care before taking a job with the Lawrenceville Correctional.
“I still don’t know why I did it,” Robinson said. “I just applied for it, I got interviewed and got hired. At the time I got hired I was three months pregnant with my second child.”
Robinson started at the prison on Jan. 3, 2000, working in central control and running towers, working until the last possible day.
“My shift was 3 p.m. until 11 p.m.,” Robinson said. “At 10:30 p.m. they wheeled me out of the facility in a wheelchair. My boss told me, ‘you are not having that baby in here.’”
Her second child, Deontre Halsey, joined his big brother, Deontae Halsey, growing Robinson’s family. Today Deontae is in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Pope, Louisiana. Deontre is 15 and a student at Brunswick County High School.
After three years at Lawrenceville, a contract turnover led Robinson to look into employment elsewhere, and she got hired as a security technician at Central State Mental Hospital, giving her state benefits and putting her into the Virginia Retirement System. She started at the hospital in July 2003.
“I loved it,” Robinson said. “You’re still supervising people who can’t leave, but when you work in a prison, at least when I worked there, it was us against them, and you couldn’t have a conversation with an inmate that lasted over three minutes because that’s considered fraternization. But at Central State, you have to talk to the patients.”
Robinson added she learned a valuable life lesson working at the mental facility.
“One thing that stuck with me, you have to treat people the way you want to be treated, because you never know when something could happen and you could snap, and end up in their place,” Robinson said.
Despite her love for the job, Robinson wanted to work closer to home, and in Feb. 2007, she got hired at Southside Regional Jail.
“The moment I got here, I knew I was home,” Robinson said. “I remember thinking, ‘God, this is what you’ve been preparing me for.’”
Working and learning under Lt. Richard Miles, Robinson said she wanted to learn every aspect of work at the jail, and in December of that year she was promoted to Corporal.
By May of 2008, she was acting Sergeant, getting the official promotion not long afterward. Then in November 2010, she was promoted to Lieutenant and put in command of her own team.
“Whenever you interview for something you don’t know how you really did,” Robinson said. “But this time, I knew I had done well, and I got the job.”
Robinson said getting promoted to Lieutenant was a dream come true, and she said she stresses teamwork and safety every time she meets with her team at the beginning of the day.
“I always tell them, we’re not leaving this room until somebody laughs,” Robinson said. “And I say, we’re going to do 12 hours, but we’re going to do it safely, and we’re going to leave the way we came in, as a team.”