While in her 20s, she worked as support staff in a Philadelphia area high school. One of the youngest members on staff, she was also one of the few people of color working in an administrative position. After receiving her high school diploma from an elite private school, she obtained her degree from another well-known Philadelphia educational institution. Seemingly smart and well adjusted, her story begins with a tale of heartbreak:
“One bad decision changed my life forever. I was dating a guy for a while, someone I met in college. After I graduated, he went into the Air Force. Once I started working, I found out he was engaged to another woman. She answered the phone when I called to wish him Happy Birthday”.
While many young people experience heartbreak. A gross lack of coping skills, caused this woman to commit what many consider to be the ultimate betrayal- intimate contact with one of her students.
“To be honest, at the time I didn’t look at it as this older woman getting with a younger student. I was hurting and miserable. This teenager was flirting with me and I felt better. I wasn‘t acting like some registered sex-offender. It didn’t have to be him- it could have been a guy my age if one had been around”.
The comment seems dismissive at first, but listening to her voice, the wounds of past events still appear to be fresh.
“It wasn’t sensational as everyone made it out to be. I hung out with the guy for a while, and we hooked up for five minutes. It wasn’t the best decision I ever made, but I didn’t force him. I wound up giving him the most expensive b***job in America. It cost me everything”.
A friend of the young man, upset not to be included in the events, quickly told school administrators. An anonymous nighttime phone call from a brother of one of the young men was the only indication that something was wrong.
“Before I knew it, I received a call from the sex crimes unit. They wanted to talk to me. I thought telling the truth would make everything alright. Thanks to the whole Mary Kay Letourneau phenomenon, everything a teacher did was sensationalized”.
To avoid the embarrassment of a trial, she copped to a plea bargain. Her time in the Philadelphia County jail system started on September 2001. The September 11th attacks occurred three days before she turned herself in.
“Emerging from medical seclusion, I was placed in a high security unit with murderers, drug dealers and hookers. I felt like a bunny in a den of wolves. Only later did I discover the guards went out of their way to hide exactly what I was in for. They knew I wouldn‘t have made it, I would have been a goner”.
Eventually, her sentence was commuted to work release. She worked in a factory known for hiring ex-offenders down in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
“The factory was hot and stuffy. We worked long hours and were paid minimum wage. Adding injury to insult, we paid rent to the jail. But anything was better then being inside all day”.
She was released to a new set of struggles in June 2002.
“My release was bittersweet. I lost my apartment and my mom sold my furniture when I went to jail. My only source of income was the work release position I got to keep once my incarceration ended. When I reported for probation on Arch Street, none of the officers knew how to handle a woman convicted of a sex crime. They couldn‘t give decent work or life advice. Some of them seemed a little smug, almost judgmental”.
A string of jobs have followed since then. At one point, she worked as a stationer, and prepared baby announcements for a well-known female Philadelphia news reporter who once referred to her “as a piece of human garbage”. Additional past occupations have included exotic dancer, escort and phone sex operator. Occupations that do not believe in background checks. She has come to the conclusion that all of her education and experience really don’t matter anymore.
“I stopped doing traditional jobs. I worked as a temp and clients were always pleased with my work. Eventually, they would present a release to run a background check (in hopes of permanent employment) and I made up a lame excuse every time. Once, a potential employer ran a check on the fly. The results lead to me being escorted off the premises by security”.
During the interview, she discussed how constantly changing laws have compounded her frustration:
“One part of my plea bargain was exclusion from the Megan’s Law registry. I knew that list would make it impossible to get a job. Three years after my release, the laws changed and I instantly became a lifetime registrant. Over a b***job“.
She will be the first to admit that Megan’s Law is a flawed concept.
“They are throwing everyone on that list, and placing everyone in the same category. I am on the same list as a kid who took a cell phone picture. We are both on the same list as a person who raped a baby. Who really benefits from this list? Me and cell phone kid can’t get jobs anymore because we are deemed perverts, but kids are still being murdered and violated in the streets. The United States is bankrupt, but they spend large sums of cash penalizing me for something that happened 10 years ago“.
She may be down, but definitely not out. Now 35 years old, she realizes that following the rules is key to a peaceful existence.
“I report to adult probation on Arch Street every two months. I have to phone in on the months I don’t have an in-person meeting“.
Things are better since a new officer is overseeing her case, an officer who specializes in female sex offenders. Once a year she reports to the Pennsylvania State Police Barracks to renew her sex-offender registration. The officers are familiar with their annual visitor, and attempt to offer career advice.
In closing, I realize life will never be normal for the former Girl Scout and aspiring Psychologist. She expresses a great deal of remorse over wasted talent and what could have been. With a declining economy one can only imagine the fate of people in such circumstances.
As of August 2011, the subject currently has two years left on her probation. She is currently self-employed. Once the probationary period ends she is looking forward to leaving the city of Philadelphia. Unless she leaves the country, she will always be a female registered sex-offender.