By Jueseppi B.
I feel very ashamed because I heard this story some years ago and filed it in the back of my head, never doing anything about it until now.
From The Huffington Post:
‘Kids For Cash’ Juvenile Detention Scandal Lands $2.5 Million Settlement In Pennsylvania
SCRANTON, Pa. — SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — Three companies behind private juvenile detention and treatment facilities at the heart of a juvenile justice scandal in northeastern Pennsylvania have settled a civil lawsuit for $2.5 million.
The settlement involving claims brought by thousands of juveniles against PA Child Care, Western PA Child Care and Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corp. was granted preliminary approval in federal court.
Two former Luzerne County judges are serving lengthy prison terms in connection with the “kids for cash” scandal. Prosecutors say children were locked away in the facilities, often for minor offenses, by judges who took illegal payments from the facilities’ builder and co-owner.
The two sides will now ask U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo for final approval.
Former Luzerne County judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced to 28 years in prison after he was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy. His former colleague Michael Conahan pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge and was sentenced to more than 17 years.
The two judges and the facilities’ co-owner remain defendants in the lawsuit.
All juveniles adjudicated or sent to a facility from 2003 to mid-2008 would be eligible to receive damages, with those placed in PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care eligible for more damages, according to the settlement terms.
Thank you Huffington Post.
When thirteen-year-old Matthew appeared in front of Judge Mark Ciavarella for throwing a piece of steak at his mother’s boyfriend, he was sentenced to seven weeks at PA Child Care, a private, for-profit juvenile detention center in northeastern Pennsylvania. Angelia was fourteen when she and a friend scrawled “Vote for Michael Jackson” on five stop signs. Charged with vandalism and defacing public property, Angelia was sent by Ciavarella to PA Child Care without her epilepsy medication and suffered a grand mal seizure her second night. Fifteen-year-old Charlie, arrested for unknowingly purchasing a stolen motorbike, was convicted of a felony and sent to PA Child Care for six weeks.
Matthew, Angelia, and Charlie are just three children among the thousands who appeared in Ciavarella’s courtroom between 2003 and 2008 and were sent away—often with no attorney present and after only cursory hearings—to a detention facility in which, it later came to light, Ciavarella had a personal financial stake. AsKids for Cash reveals, this miscarriage of justice underscores a multitude of problems with our juvenile justice system, which too often criminalizes standard adolescent behavior, treats adolescents more harshly than if they were adults, and denies them their most fundamental constitutional rights.
William Ecenbarger, a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award–winning investigative journalist who covered the case for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now gives us the first book-length account of this shocking story. In the tradition of true-crime legal thrillers from The Executioner’s Song to A Civil Action, Ecenbarger exposes a deeply corrupt and broken system that ruined the lives of many children and ultimately led to the judge’s conviction on charges of racketeering, fraud, tax violations, money laundering, extortion, and bribery. Fastidiously researched and utterly propulsive, Kids for Cash takes us deep inside a profoundly flawed legal system, revealing the twisted and haunting realities of America’s juvenile justice system.
Kids for Cash (2013) Trailer
Published on Dec 9, 2013
Kids for Cash is a riveting look behind the notorious judicial scandal that rocked the nation. Beyond the millions paid and high stakes corruption, Kids for Cash exposes a shocking American secret. In the wake of the shootings at Columbine, a small town celebrates a charismatic judge who is hell-bent on keeping kids in line…until one parent dares to question the motives behind his brand of justice.
“Cash for Kids”: Firms Behind Juvenile Prison Bribes Reach $2.5 Million Settlement in Civil Suit
We turn to the latest news in the so-called kids-for-cash scandal in Pennsylvania, in which judges took money in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to for-profit youth jails. In 2011, former Luzerne County Judge, Mark Ciavarella, was convicted of accepting bribes for putting juveniles into detention centers operated by the companies PA Child Care and a sister company, Western Pennsylvania Child Care. Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, are said to have received $2.6 million for their efforts. Now the private, juvenile-detention companies at the heart of the Kids for Cash scandal in Pennsylvania have settled a civil lawsuit for $2.5 million.
The state has also passed much-needed reforms aimed at improving its juvenile justice system and ensuring such abuses are not repeated. We are joined in Philadelphia by Marsha Levick, chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center, which helped expose the corrupt judges and represented the families’ class-action suit.
The “kids for cash” scandal unfolded in 2008 over judicial kickbacks at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Two judges, President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan, were accused of accepting money from Robert Mericle, builder of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities, in return for contracting with the facilities and imposing harsh sentences on juveniles brought before their courts to increase the number of inmates in the detention centers.
For example, Ciavarella sentenced children to extended stays in juvenile detention for offenses as minimal as mocking a principal on Myspace, trespassing in a vacant building, and shoplifting DVDs from Wal-mart. Ciavarella and Conahan pled guilty on February 13, 2009, pursuant to a plea agreement, to federal charges of honest services fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States (failing to report income to the Internal Revenue Service, known as tax evasion) in connection with receiving $2.6 million in payments from managers at PA Child Care in Pittston Township and its sister company Western PA Child Care in Butler County. The plea agreement was later voided by a federal judge, who was dissatisfied with the post-plea conduct of the defendants, and the two judges charged subsequently withdrew their guilty pleas, raising the possibility of a criminal trial.
A federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania returned a 48-count indictment against Ciavarella and Conahan including racketeering, fraud,money laundering, extortion, bribery, and federal tax violations on September 9, 2009. Conahan entered a revised guilty plea to one count of racketeering conspiracy in July 2010. In a verdict reached at the conclusion of a jury trial, Ciavarella was convicted February 18, 2011 on 12 of the 39 counts he faced.
Following the original plea agreement, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered an investigation of the cases handled by the judges and following its outcome overturned several hundred convictions of youths in Luzerne County. The Juvenile Law Center filed a class action lawsuit against the judges and numerous other parties, and the state legislature created a commission to investigate the wide-ranging juvenile justice problems in the county.
Victims of Judicial Corruption Kids For Cash Prison Slavery Ring, Pennsylvania
Uploaded on Feb 9, 2011
Victims’ Stories: PA Kids 4 Cash Judicial Corruption Slavery Racket. Personal Stories (2009) + Current Criminal Trial News (Feb 2011). Reload w updates. Judges got nearly $3Million in kickbacks in exchange for sending more kids to juvenile detention centers.
In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967) was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision which established that under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, juveniles accused of crimes in a delinquency proceeding must be afforded many of the same due process rights as adults such as the right to timely notification of charges, the right to confront witnesses, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to counsel.
An investigation into improper sentencing in Luzerne County began early in 2007 as a result of requests for assistance from several youths received by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. Lawyers from the law center determined that several hundred cases were tried without the defendants receiving proper counsel. In April 2008, the Juvenile Law Center petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court seeking relief for alleged violation of the youths’ civil rights. The application of relief was later denied, then reconsidered in January 2009 when charges of corruption against the judges surfaced.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service also investigated the two judges while probing practices in Luzerne County, although the exact dates and scope of the investigations by the two federal agencies were not made public. Part of the investigation was revealed to have occurred during disciplinary hearings over the conduct of another former Luzerne County judge, Anne H. Lokuta. Lokuta was brought before the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania in November 2006 to answer charges of using court workers to do her personal bidding, openly displaying bias against some attorneys arguing before her, and publicly berating staff to cause mental distress.
The board ruled against Lokuta in November 2008 and she was removed from the bench. During the course of the disciplinary hearings, Lokuta accused then Judge Michael Conahan of bullying behavior and charged that he was behind a conspiracy to have her removed. Lokuta aided the federal investigation into the “kids for cash” scheme prior to the determination of the disciplinary board, and a stay order was issued in March 2009 by the state Supreme Court in light of the ongoing corruption investigations, halting Lokuta’s removal and the election that was to be held in May to replace her.
In the aftermath of the federal charges and defendant pleas, the Pennsylvania General Assembly moved to create a commission to investigate the entire set of circumstances surrounding the miscarriage of justice in Luzerne County. Sponsored by Representative Todd Eachus of Butler Township in Luzerne County, House Bill 1648 established the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice in July 2009. The commission comprises 11 members, appointed from each branch of government in Pennsylvania, with four members chosen by the judiciary, four by the legislature and three by the governor.
In signing the legislation on August 7, 2009, Governor Ed Rendell castigated Ciavarella and Conahan, saying they “violated the rights of as many as 6000 young people by denying them basic rights to counsel and handing down outrageously excessive sentences. The lives of these young people and their families were changed forever.” Scheduled to meet a minimum of once per month, the commission was organized to investigate the actions of and damages caused by the two judges and review the state of the Luzerne County courts left in the wake of their tenures. The commission was given power of subpoena and was required to complete its work and report its recommendations and findings to the three branches of state government by May 31, 2010.
Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals (Part 1 of 3)
Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals (Part 2 of 3)
Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals (Part 3 of 3)
Judge Mark Ciavarella Guilty – Kids For Cash Jail Scandal
Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals