“Then I’m not even going to tell you that anymore,” she responds. “I’m just going to show you. I mean, how many chances are you going to give me?”
“That is a good question,” says Kirkland, leaning back in her chair.
“Honestly,” says Kirkland, “my gut is telling me to send you up to Muncy [women’s prison], because I am not playing with you. You’re lucky to have Ms. DeFusco. You have a very compassionate person with you. She has more patience for your situation.”
Kirkland asks Jeanette Palmer, her parole officer, what she thinks.
“The truth is that she’s an addict,” says Palmer. “She’s very noncompliant… She loves the street; she wants to be in the street. She definitely needs an opiate blocker.”
DeFusco, standing at Janelle’s side, cuts in.
“Here’s the thing. We’re not going to fail her, she’s going to fail herself.”
“All I hear are buzzwords. I’m not a buzzwords person,” retorts Kirkland. “On one hand you have people trying to give you the treatment you need for your condition, and it is a condition … but the other option is jail. Part of what judges do is punishment. Some of it is rehabilitation, but some of it is punishment.”
In the end, Janelle is given one more chance. Like a game of Chutes and Ladders, she’s whisked back to the beginning to start over.
For Kristen to start over, to resist the familiar rhythm of life in the street, she has to work hard. She says it’s not just about staying off drugs; it’s about dealing with all of it. She says she shares everything in therapy now, she doesn’t hold back.
“I got a lot of guilt, you know?”
Though she’s said that she split her parents’ house and “never looked back,” that’s not entirely true.
Kristen’s parents died a few years ago. She cries as she talks about them dying. She says though she was in jail at the time, she was able to say good-bye to her mother on the phone. She visited her father on his deathbed.
“I said, ‘Daddy, I love you, I forgive you. I know it [the abuse] was the alcoholism.’”
He died the next day. “I feel like they waited for me,” she says.
Kristen says she finally understands that she can’t outrun the shame, no matter how many cars she hops in and out of, no matter how high she gets.
“My whole life, that’s the only thing I knew, from the age of 14,” she says. “You look for love in all the wrong places and you just get caught up.”
Kristen says she needs to help others in order to feel important. She helped get her son off heroin. She dreams of teaching handicapped kids and looks forward to doing outreach next.
She wants very badly to break the cycle.
“I looked at myself and realized this ain’t the life I want to live,” she says. “I got a grandson … and I don’t want to live that life no more.”
Want to know how much sex with a teenager costs? Just ask Mimi. It cost her everything. Two years ago this month, I wrote a cover story that profiled the struggles of the 20-year-old from New Jersey who was two months into recovery after spending five grueling years in street-level prostitution, where the only so-called winners are pimps who earn big bucks off the backs of women and girls.
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom