Crack was her pimp.
For six years, 34-year-old Nina Martin was trapped in a cycle of getting high and selling her body on Dallas streets to earn money for her next fix. She was in and out of jail. She was raped. She was abused.
Her dangerous lifestyle didn’t change until 2012, when Martin went before state District Judge Lena Levario, who ran a Dallas County specialty court for women facing significant jail time after multiple prostitution arrests.
She was told: Quit the sex business, get clean, go to counseling, and you won’t have to spend years behind bars.
It was a second chance at life, and Martin took it.
Levario had trouble staying objective when she took over the specialty court program in 2010 — dubbed Strengthening, Transition and Recovery, or STAR Court.
She would cry reading some of the files of those who appeared before her bench — stories of physical and sexual abuse, of women who simply didn’t know how to live life off the streets.
“I find myself competing with the pimps over these women’s souls,” Levario said. “We have to get them thinking that they’re different people, that they’re new people, that they don’t need to show off their body to get respect.”
Over time, she learned that the women had a greater chance at success if she was tough on them.
“A judge is not going to be able to help anyone and a therapist is not going to be able to help anyone if they sit there and cry along with them and pat them and say, ‘Oh you poor thing.’”
During the past two years, 60 women have entered STAR. Of those, 16 have finished the program and 18 are still going through it. Levario oversaw it until the end of December, when her term ended and state District Judge Elizabeth Frizell took over STAR Court.
That was the same month Martin “graduated” after two years of intensive counseling, check-ins with her probation officer and routine drug testing.
Read the full story at Dallasnews.com