Tenacious. Dedicated. Passionate. Workaholic. Loyalty. Words Samantha Monday uses to describe herself. Here are a few more we’ll use: Compassionate. Driven. Dependable. Empathetic. Effective. Self-reliant. Direct. Problem solver. Team player. Juggler.
Juggler? And a hero of a different sort.
This woman has more balls in the air than five jugglers. Day in and day out. And she loves it, thrives on it, looks forward to every day, to every challenge, to every bit of it.
Monday, 42, is a case manager/supervisor civilian employee of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). Her “beat” is the Roger D. Wilson Detention Center where she has offices and the Knox County Criminal Courts. Her work is built around helping criminals, drug abusers, those with mental health issues and abused women (domestic violence and trafficking) survive and hopefully begin new lives. She works with a plethora of agencies and people to help them all find places that lead to healthy lives.
“I work within the court system to assist the inmates in getting out,” she said. “I work with defense attorneys, the District Attorney’s office and the Criminal Court judges plus treatment agencies and others to set up their treatment needs for recovery, plus housing and mental health appointments. Whatever they need, I’m there.” In short, she helps establish life plans for each person.
Her days are filled with “client” interviews at the detention center, courtroom hearings and no telling how many phone calls, texts and emails. Plus coordinating with the other case manager, Laken Conley. And who knows what else? Over the last five years she has averaged working with approximately 240 inmates a year. One year she helped 500.
“The judges (Steve Sword, Scott Green and Hector Sanchez) love her and respect her and they all rely on her and her judgment and opinions. They look to her for advice,” says KCSO Chief Steve Bravo, who supervises the detention center’s programs, including Monday’s work. “Samantha does an excellent job. She’s constantly busy and she just gets it all done.”
This job is for someone with life experience, maturity and the credentials. She checks all of those boxes. She has been doing this for nine years. Prior to KCSO, she worked for the state of Tennessee as a correctional counselor and probation officer; in 2013 she joined KCSO as court program specialist doing pretty much what she does now. For 16 years she worked at Parkwest Medical Center, primarily in the pharmacy.
Monday says she’s still “a Karns girl through and through.” Reared there, she graduated from Karns High in 1997. Next was the University of Tennessee. She graduated with a pair of bachelor’s degrees in psychology and anthropology.
Behind her name today is an alphabet soup defining her professionally.
- MS: master’s of forensic science with a specialty in criminal investigations
- LADAC II: licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor II
- CADC II: certified alcohol & drug counselor II
She prides herself in her accessibility. “I make sure these people have a way to contact me, anytime of the day or night, believing in me. Just encouraging them goes a long way,” she said. “I try to be their lifeline. I’ve even talked a few of them out of suicide. It’s part of me and my job.”
Why does she love her work? “People need help. The criminal justice system is not set up to rehab people. No support systems. Lack of housing and treatment beds. Many of these people have nothing and nobody. They have nowhere to go. They’ve burned family bridges. Many have no clothes, even shoes. People don’t really care about them.”
She works with and interacts with between 40 and 50 attorneys to do inmate assessments from referrals, make recommendations to the court and set up their treatments and support needs, including housing. “In court I hold the attorneys’ hands to make sure what I have set up is getting done and answer any questions that come up,” she explained. “Success is when they get clean, get a job, get their family and house back. It is all very rewarding.”
In an August 2022 interview with a female in her 40s, jailed for drug abuse, Monday says it took her about three minutes to figure out that this Knox County woman had been and was being sex trafficked. “She is one of many caught up in this locally,” she explained. “People have no idea it’s going on. We even have men being trafficked.”
The woman was a drug addict and a man and woman controlled her with drugs – they supply drugs in exchange for sex with men and they are paid by the men using the woman. If she didn’t comply, the couple beat her and threatened to harm her children. And withheld her drugs.
“It’s not just kids being trafficked. It’s older men and women as well and we’re running into this fairly frequently,” Monday said.
Monday reached out to the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking to help this woman. Working together, her rehabilitation began. Today she is in a treatment facility in a New England state and doing well. “She is doing trauma-based yoga for mental health issues. She’s involved in a church’s equine therapy group and looking for a job. She is doing amazing work and we talk twice a week,” Monday says. “I could not be prouder of her.”
Monday’s job is non-stop, intense, sometimes emotional. It is hard to turn off. How does she shut down? “Depends. I read a lot and in the warmer weather I love being on the water in a kayak. As long as the water isn’t moving fast,” she says. “I enjoy calm.”
Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia