Prisoners of Sex

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

Jiron kept her eyes trained on the calendar. Three years, maybe less if the judge granted reconsideration of her sentence. She heard about Carsen-Tate's exploits and the rumors that boys were sneaking over to the girls' side of the building late at night, possibly with staff collusion. She steered clear.

Three years. Maybe less.

Duane Coleman made remarks about her having a nice body. She ignored him.

 
John Johnston
 
Former YOS resident Pene Carsen-Tate
Former YOS resident Pene Carsen-Tate

Three years. Maybe eighteen months.

But she couldn't ignore Steve Chavez, a 38-year-old corrections officer who, like Coleman, often worked in the girls' building. One summer night soon after Jiron's arrival, Chavez came into her room and started touching her. She asked him to stop. He didn't.

"Basically, he assaulted me," Jiron says. "After it was over, I was crying. I told him I was going to report him for this. And he grabbed me by my arm and said, 'If you say anything, I will have you revoked so quick. I'm staff. They won't believe you.' And he was right. I was scared. I just wanted to get out of there."

Jiron never reported Chavez. Months later, she received a letter from him, listing his home phone number and "telling me that if I ever needed anything to call him. That he loved me. Just weird stuff. I showed it to another girl."

Eighteen months after she arrived in Pueblo, Jiron was out on parole, her sentence modified by Jefferson County Judge Brooke Jackson. But YOS wasn't done with her yet. More weird stuff: In the summer of 2001, while living in Fort Collins, she says, she received a phone call from Coleman, who'd apparently tracked her down through her parole officer. "He was saying things like, 'I want to come see you. I want to be with you,'" Jiron says.

She didn't want to see Coleman. All she wanted to do was finish parole and get away from these people.

A few months later, DOC investigators visited Jiron. They told her they had a signed statement from Steve Chavez, in which he admitted forcing her to have sex with him. She told them it was true.

They seemed quite willing to believe her. Something had changed since she'd left YOS. Somebody had finally decided to report the bastards.


Angel Castro never considered herself any kind of crusader. The few times in her life she'd tried to get justice for anybody, including herself, the results had been disappointing. You could say she didn't have a lot of faith that people in authority knew how to fix what was wrong, or even cared.

Despite all the violations she'd endured at the hands of boys and men -- the assault by one of her mother's boyfriends, the abuse by her own, the rapes by gangbangers who threatened her life -- she only went to the police one time.

When she was fourteen, she and another girl invited some boys from the Thornton City Players over to Castro's place, just to kick it, maybe smoke a little something. But the TCP members had ideas of their own. Two of them grabbed Castro's arms. The third pulled down her pants. They took turns on her. There were other people in the house, but the boys told her they had a gun in their car, and Castro didn't want to cause more trouble.

She might have let the whole business go, but on their way out, the boys helped themselves to her brother's PlayStation and a bunch of rented games. She went to the Westminster police to complain.

"I talked to the detective once, and he said nothing could be done because we were around the same age," she says. "These boys were sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, but they didn't do nothing about it."

The carjacking that put her behind bars was connected to another unavenged rape. This time it was a friend of Castro's who'd been raped, and her friend's sister wanted to even the score, to go to the rapist's house and raise hell. Angel went along to try to keep things from going bad, but first they had to get a car...and...and...well, things went from bad to hyperbad, and Angel ended up in Pueblo.

So when bad things started happening in YOS, Castro didn't see any reason to stick her neck out. Okay, so she was raped. So she watched her roommate go through the same thing. What was she supposed to do about it?

"I didn't want to think about it," she says now. "All these females are out here doing all this stuff willingly with male inmates and male staff members. If I was to bring this to the table, who's going to believe me? As far as they're concerned, I was just like every one of those other females."

But Castro couldn't stop thinking about it. There was too much anguish, too much anger over what corrections officer Gary Neal had put her through, what her roommate had suffered. A few days after the incidents, gang graffiti was discovered in a boys' bathroom. Privileges were being taken away campus-wide: In YOS lingo, everybody was getting "consequenced" for the misbehavior of a few. One of the new rules was that the girls, who usually tried to look as shapeless and slovenly as possible, were required to have their shirts tucked in their pants.

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