Age Inappropriate

A casual fling can earn a lifetime label as a sex offender.

Tina also had difficulty being treated as if she were a constant threat to children. "If I got on a bus and there was a kid in front of the bus, I had to go in the back. If I went into a grocery store and there was a kid in one aisle, I had to move to another," she says. "I was supposed to admit that I was dangerous to these children. I said, 'When I'm in a grocery store, I don't even notice the kids unless their parents aren't controlling them. And even then, I look at the parents."

A December 2001 report details her treatment failings: "Denial, lack of empathy and remorse.... She places community at risk.... She can mitigate her risk factors by admitting to her unlawful deviant sexual behavior."

For Tina, however, the real punishment was the restriction that she not have contact with anyone under the age of eighteen -- which, of course, included her three daughters, now ages twelve, fourteen and fifteen. There had never been a hint of improper or illegal behavior between Tina and her girls. Still, according to the Sex Offender Management Board's published standards for treatment, once a person is labeled a sex criminal, it becomes up to the offender to prove that she can handle being alone with her children without molesting them.

Anthony Camera
Jill McFadden is program administrator for the state's 
Sex Offender Management Board.
Anthony Camera
Jill McFadden is program administrator for the state's Sex Offender Management Board.

"The goal of family reunification shall never take precedence over the safety of any former or potential victim," the manual reads. "Even when indicated, family reunification is a process that is potentially dangerous and should be approached with great consideration and over an extended period of time."

A single mother with no real local support system, Tina sent her daughters to Nebraska to live with a friend. The arrangement soon fell apart. Two of Tina's daughters were incorrigible, and the friend sent them back to Colorado. With no other place to go, they moved back in with Tina, into her rented motel room on East Colfax Avenue.

In late October 2002, a probation officer was tipped off that Tina might be seeing her children, a violation of her status as a sex offender. He drove to her motel, where he saw her twelve-year-old daughter playing out front. On October 29, a warrant was issued for Tina's arrest. In it, her therapist noted Tina's problems, citing Tina's anger at being labeled a sex offender, as well as an unpaid bill of just over $300 for her treatment.

After being reminded that she could not be alone with any person under the age of eighteen, Tina was released. But two weeks later, she was arrested again after a probation officer made another surprise visit to the motel and once again found Tina's daughters living with their mother.

"I was so tired of hiding my kids," she explains today. "I just couldn't do it anymore. What am I supposed to do, abandon my children? If I had to do it all over again, I'd do the same thing." Two days before Christmas 2002, Tina was sent to the Colorado Women's Correctional Facility. She is scheduled to be released in 2008.

Her three girls now live in separate group homes in Colorado. Tina wonders about them every day: "Do they have boyfriends? Do they go to church? Do they pray?"

In late May, Tina was given permission to exchange letters with her children for the first time since she was sent to prison. Before that, she'd had to rely on an attorney for reports.

The eighteen-year-old, she hears, earned her GED and is working as a veterinary assistant. The two younger girls are having problems -- one with anorexia, the other with promiscuity. "I'd give a million dollars to talk to my kids for five minutes on the phone," she says. "I miss them so much."

"I know what I did was wrong," Tina adds. "But I didn't deserve this."

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The criminal justice system has also been getting ridiculously tough lately on adult men who marry teenage girls.>>>>>click onto

Not like the good old days when it didn't even matter how much older the groom was than the teenage bride.  So long as nobody was being forced into anything they didn't want to be in, the marriage was just as legal as two same-aged sweethearts.>>>>

Eric Dexheimer?  You should do your next story on something like this.  That is, adult grooms marrying teen brides.  In the United States of America, of course.  In non-Mormon and non-Muslim communities, that is.  Forget about the Middle East.  Too many wackjobs over there.