Kid Pro Quo: PA Juvenile "Justice" System Upended
Yes, I use the word "justice" loosely there for the fact that there was no real justice in Judge Mark Ciavarella's court room. If you were a kid you were just a commodity to be sold off and incarcerated for his own personal enrichement:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled late Thursday that almost all juvenile delinquency cases heard by former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella from Jan. 1, 2003 to May 31, 2008 must be thrown out.
Ciavarella took millions in kickbacks to incarcerate juvenile offenders in private detention facilities.
The affect of this recent decision is that it could effect change in as many as 6500 kids' sentences. ABC has some video and a nice writeup updating this story:
Ciavarella faces criminal charges that accuse him of taking millions of dollars in kickbacks from owners of private detention centers in exchange for placing juvenile defendants at their facilities, often for minor crimes.
In one reported case, a college-bound high school student served three weeks in juvenile detention for making fun of the school principal on a Web site.
The court said that it "cannot have any confidence that Ciavarella decided any Luzerne County juvenile case fairly and impartially while he labored under the specter of his self-interested dealings with the facilities," and called Ciavarella's actions a "travesty of juvenile justice."
Ciavarella and Michael Conahan ,who was serving as president judge of the Luzerne County Common Pleas Court, a position that allowed him to control the county-court budget, entered a plea deal that would have them serve 7 year sentences. The federal judge presiding over the case, 83-year-old Edwin M. Kosik, last month rejected the plea agreements Ciavarella and Conahan had signed in exchange for their admissions of guilt.
Kosik ruled the sentences were too lenient and Conahan and Ciavarella had failed to fully accept responsibility for their alleged wrongdoing.
And, finally, from CBS News, it is safe to say that there are a lot more people that should be legally scrutinized, aside from just the private company that was paying the kickbacks to judges for sending them kids to fill their jail:
PA Child Care LLC has not been charged. Former co-owner Robert Powell, who made the payments, has said he was the victim of extortion.
The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center asked the Supreme Court to intervene in Luzerne County last year, citing statistics that Ciavarella was opting for detention in far high numbers than would be expected. The justices rejected the request without comment in early January, then changed their mind after Conahan and Ciavarella were charged.
Marsha Levick, chief counsel of the law center, said that the unprecedented scope of the scandal will take time to fully address, but that Thursday's order was a start.
She said there are many inside the Luzerne County court system, including attorneys and probation officials, who had to know the rights of juvenile defendants were being routinely violated.