Lost and Found

Baby Girl has one last chance at a new life.

Baby G pleaded guilty.

That night a woman from the Chrysalis Project picked Baby G up at the jail and took her to a hotel. Baby G shared the letter-poem she'd written in jail, from Baby Girl to the girl she used to be.

Step two, it's just too plain to see, I've got to love me again, and get rid of Baby G.
Verbal admittance.
Step three, leave the people and places I play, to start a new path and change my old ways.
Relocate.

 
Mark Manger
 
Lois Clayton, manager of the Chrysalis Project, is on 
call 24/7.
John Johnston
Lois Clayton, manager of the Chrysalis Project, is on call 24/7.

A big bucket of condoms sits by the magazines on the lobby table at Empowerment, a nonprofit that's catered to homeless women, mentally impaired women, prostitutes, female addicts, female convicts and women with HIV or AIDS since 1986, providing medical attention and counseling, finding its clients jobs, housing, education. This is where women in the Chrysalis Project get treatment. Few men ever set foot inside the building just off Colfax.

Several Empowerment workers once walked that street themselves.

Most of the women and all of their problems gravitate to Lois Clayton. Someone is always knocking on her door. If her office phone isn't ringing, her cell phone is -- day and night, week in and week out.

At 6' 4", Clayton towers over the Chrysalis women, who compete endlessly for her attention. Their needs can be as petty as a cup of coffee, as traumatic as rape and relapse. But whether they're fighting addictions or fighting each other, Clayton is there to help. She's the program coordinator for Chrysalis, which is funded by a $450,000 Department of Justice grant to be divided over three years. Denver came up with a $273,000 matching grant; Empowerment raised another $26,000.

The money covers Judge Marcucci's time in courtroom 12T and Lopez's coordinator role that links the court with Empowerment. It also pays for Clayton and another part-time Chrysalis staffer, urine analyses, acupuncture treatment and various supplies; ultimately, it will fund the collection of data and an evaluation of whether the program is working.

Chrysalis's goal is to graduate 75 women -- all prostitutes with addiction problems -- each of the three years, seeing them through at least 120 hours of drug and alcohol counseling, arranging for more mental-health treatment, and getting them jobs and stable housing. In short, keeping them off the streets and out of jail.

Since the program started in February, housing has been a major hurdle. Women can't stay off drugs if they're not off the streets, Clayton points out. One Chrysalis client lived in a hotel for a month, with Empowerment footing the bill, before the program struck a deal with an independent safehouse.

Clayton, a drug and alcohol counselor for a dozen years, assesses the women's addictions and develops the treatment plans. She's part probation officer, part counselor, part friend, part parent, and all listener. She gives the women bus tokens and food vouchers. She helps with the court reports. The women who stick around, that is.

"This project here has been a handful," she says. "Their case management for me means running them down, physically making sure they're in the right place -- basically holding their hands. They have no life skills. It's all prostitution and drugs."

On March 23, Baby G became the Chrysalis Project's newest client. The next day, she went through two hours of drug and alcohol counseling. But the urine she left at Clayton's office four days later showed traces of cocaine.

Luckily for Baby G, those results weren't in when she faced the judge on March 29. On the stand in street clothes, she looked vibrant, smiling, swinging her arms and almost dancing. The judge said he'd see her in another week.

By then, she'd had another urine analysis, one that would again show cocaine. But Judge Marcucci didn't know that; he just had the dirty test from the previous week. Baby Girl told him that she'd kissed a boy who had a lot of crack stored in his mouth, and that's how it got in her system. He gave her ten days' time, suspending the sentence if she stayed out of trouble and kept her urine clean.

The next day, Baby G attended an all-day workshop at Empowerment on getting a job. But then she dropped another hot UA, her third in two weeks.

When her next court date rolled around, Baby G wasn't in 12T like she was supposed to be. She had been late for some of her Chrysalis sessions, and she'd told Clayton that she was going to grab some pizza before court. But Clayton was worried, because she knew that Baby G realized she could be going to jail for the last two hot tests.

So Clayton went looking for her and returned with a crying Baby Girl only minutes later. "You thought I ran, didn't you?" Baby G asked, smiling through her tears.

When her name was called, the judge asked Baby Girl if she was willing to do the ten days that he'd suspended the last time. By now she was comfortable on the stand, and she chuckled as she told him "No." The judge didn't appreciate the joke, and reminded her that she had the right to challenge the drug-test results. Instead, Baby G reluctantly accepted the time and promised not to have another hot test.

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