Prisoners of Sex

Colorado's costly program for violent teens was supposed to turn these girls around. Instead, they got turned out.

"We all had boyfriends," she says. "But Pene was the one who got caught."

The other girls weren't the only people concerned about Carsen-Tate's torrid romances. Her counselor, Sergeant Dwayne Evans, got on her case frequently about flirting with boys. But after a few months, around the time Carsen-Tate turned seventeen, Evans's attitude toward her changed, she says: "He was telling me how sexy I was, how great my ass looked."

One day Carsen-Tate had to get into a deserted classroom to work on the computer. Evans had the keys and agreed to escort her. Once they were alone, she says, Evans brushed up against her and "made it clear that there were things he could do for me."

Brett Amole

A YOS girl with a friend on staff could find life inside a lot easier to manage. The friend could bring in all kinds of forbidden treats -- hair gels and perms, for instance, or Sonic hamburgers and Good Times fries. More important, the friend might look the other way when it came to having boyfriends or other infractions that could otherwise get a girl bounced from the program.

Carsen-Tate considered all this. She thought about the six years she had to endure in YOS and the 32 years she was facing if she failed. At some point, Evans's suggestion that he could help her out was no longer just an idea. "We had sex right there in that classroom," she says.

Although she denied the relationship when investigators first questioned her about it, Carsen-Tate would later claim that she had sex with Dwayne Evans at least fifty times during her stay at YOS -- in classrooms, bathrooms, on office desks, you name it. Toward the end, she says, Evans was even unlocking doors so a couple of her boyfriends could have conjugal visits with her.

Even if Carsen-Tate had been inclined to report the arrangement, she doubts any of the staff would have taken her seriously. "Evans had status over us and among the staff," she says. "With the trouble I'd been in, they wouldn't have believed me. They would have just said, 'No, she's just a little gang thug bitch off the street. She's not trustworthy.'"

Evans has denied having a sexual relationship with Carsen-Tate. But she insists it was common knowledge among the YOS residents. "Every black resident knew about it," she says. "For me staying in the program, it was worth it."

Jiron says Carsen-Tate made little effort to conceal the relationship: "I didn't believe it at first, but she was getting all this candy. Evans would give her big bags of Hershey's Kisses.

"She'd say she had to get schoolbooks and go upstairs, and she'd be gone for an hour. I eventually asked what she was doing, and she told me. But she didn't make it sound like she was being forced."

Pene Carsen-Tate's first boyfriend in YOS whispered to her that if he caught her even talking to another guy, they were going to have some issues over that. When she got out, he added, he was going to keep her on a dog leash.

Despite such tender sentiments, the relationship was a tense and unhappy one. The boy had several fist-clenching confrontations with other residents, boys he suspected of trying to make time with his girl or friends of Carsen-Tate's who didn't like the way he was treating her. In August 2000, after Carsen-Tate had been in the program almost a year, the affair resulted in a rumble in the yard that one senior staffer described as "probably the most serious resident incident" he'd ever witnessed at YOS.

That day a young man named Micah, who'd known Carsen-Tate before she arrived at YOS, approached her boyfriend with the intention of "advocating for Pene's honor," as one attorney would later put it. The two teens had exchanged blows before, and the boyfriend's response to Micah's latest overture was to grab a brick and smash it into his face, knocking out several teeth. Other combatants -- accounts range from three to a dozen -- soon joined the fray. With many other inmates milling on the grounds, the situation had the potential to turn into a full-scale riot, and dozens of guards were quickly summoned to the scene.

Micah and the boyfriend were thrown in the hole. Neither one was cast out of the program, but there was talk about charging Carsen-Tate, who was regarded as the instigator of the whole mess, with the serious offense of "advocating facility disruption." Nothing came of it; still, the incident alarmed many officers, and over the next few months, they pushed to revoke Carsen-Tate from YOS.

"They said I had a sense of control over other inmates, and for them to succeed, I must fail," she says. "I was a security risk because boys were fighting over me, male staff were hitting on me, looking at my ass, looking down my shirt. They didn't like me there from the get-go."

In fact, Carsen-Tate had the disconcerting habit of admitting to carrying on with boys whenever she was confronted about her activities. She even tried to report the ones who hurt her -- protectors turned tormentors -- to no avail. (One entry in her file reads: "Refused to perform oral sex. Got a black eye.") But her disciplinary record also included numerous writeups for other kinds of infractions, including refusing to take her medications, unauthorized use of phone privileges, and threats to staff.

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