As someone who spent the latter part of his childhood stuck in the foster care system, I can attest to sense of helplessness you have when the state has total control over your life.
In some ways that state control was an improvement over my emotionally and sexually abusive alcoholic parents, but in other ways you understood that all it would take is one judge having a bad day and you could be sent to some horrible institution, no question asked.
So I’ve followed the Pennsylvania Kids-For-Cash scandal closely, mostly because there but for the grace of God go I (or any foster kid, really):
Two former Pennsylvania judges who orchestrated a scheme to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks were ordered to pay more than $200 million to hundreds of people they victimized in one of the worst judicial scandals in U.S. history.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner awarded $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to nearly 300 people in a long-running civil suit against the judges, writing the plaintiffs are “the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions.”
In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, Mark Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit lockups. Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, pushed a zero-tolerance policy that guaranteed large numbers of kids would be sent to PA Child Care and its sister facility, Western PA Child Care.
Former Luzerne County Court Judges Michael Conahan, front left, and Mark Ciavarella, front right, leave the U.S. District Courthouse in Scranton, Pa., on Sept., 15, 2009. The two Pennsylvania judges who orchestrated a scheme to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks were ordered to pay more than $200 million to hundreds of children who fell victim to their crimes.
Ciavarella ordered children as young as 8 to detention, many of them first-time offenders deemed delinquent for petty theft, jaywalking, truancy, smoking on school grounds and other minor infractions. The judge often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to put up a defense or even say goodbye to their families.
“Ciavarella and Conahan abandoned their oath and breached the public trust,” Conner wrote Tuesday in his explanation of the judgment. “Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom were suffering from emotional issues and mental health concerns.”
If the world made sense, these two judges would die in prison.
One might. The other was released early because of COVID.
You can read the rest of the AP article here.