PA Judges Plead Guilty to Selling Child Prisoners


In a case I’ve mentioned before, two judges from Pennsylvania have pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks from a private prison company in exchange for sentencing kids to juvenile facilities owned by the company.

Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan of the Court of Common Pleas in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, plead guilty in open court that they sentenced children to juvenile detention because they were paid off to do it by the PA Childcare and a sister company, Western PA Childcare corporation that ran the private facilities.

“Your statement that I have disgraced my judgeship is true. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame.”

The two judges face up to seven years in prison under a plea agreement made with the state.

The companies in question paid the two judges more than $2.6 million dollars to send children to detention. The companies receive a stipend from the government for each inmate they house. So as more children were sentenced to the detention center, PA Childcare and Western PA Childcare received more money from the government, prosecutors said.

According to the Juvenile Law Center, a Philadelphia nonprofit group, teenagers were sentenced to detention for simple misdemeanors.

Whatever they get, it won’t be enough.

Comments

  1. Gregory in Seattle says

    @slc1 #1 – Excellent point: if someone is found guilty of accepting bribes, then someone must be guilty of giving them.

    Anyway, this is an excellent example of why private, for-profit prisons are bad and should all be shut down. I have no doubt that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  2. eric says

    I remember when this was on the news a few months back. I had to turn it off – didn’t want to break my nice flat screen. What a horrible, horrible crime.

  3. tbp1 says

    This is gut-wrenchingly repulsive. It’s hard to imagine anything much more corrupt.

    I don’t know how much he actually means it, but whichever judge they quoted at least didn’t equivocate at all in his statement. Doesn’t excuse it one little bit, but it’s more self-awareness than you often see.

  4. says

    Regards going after the bribers:
    “Marsha Levick, chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center, estimated that of approximately 5,000 juveniles who came before Ciavarella from 2003 and 2006, between 1,000 and 2,000 received sentences that far outweighed their crimes. She said the center will be suing the judges and the companies to compensate the victims.
    Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/211740/u-s-judges-admit-to-jailing-children-for-money/#IwrzH2MscXCMhftI.99

    But will that involve bringing the bribers to justice, e.g. sentencing them to prison?

  5. says

    According to Wikipedia: “Robert Mericle, the prominent real estate developer who built the two juvenile detention facilities, pleaded guilty on September 3, to failing to disclose a felony, for not revealing to a grand jury that he had paid $2.1 million to Ciavarella and Conahan as a finder’s fee. As part of his plea, Mericle has agreed to pay $2.15 million to fund local children’s health and welfare programs. Mericle faces up to three years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine but will likely serve one year or even probation pursuant to his plea agreement.”

  6. daved says

    It’s a horrible story, and it’s been dragging on for a long time. Kids died because of these judges. Seven years isn’t anywhere near enough of a sentence — those guys should never get out.

    However, it is not necessarily true that the people who bribed the judges will also be imprisoned. Oh, sure, they should be, but we don’t know whether they will be. Ever heard of the Teapot Dome scandal, back during the Harding administration? Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was convicted of taking a bribe that the briber, Edward Doheny, was acquitted of paying.

  7. Doug Little says

    This is an abysmal abuse of power, 7 years? they should get life in prison without parole, make an example of them.

  8. Olav says

    tbp1 says:

    , but it’s more self-awareness than you often see.

    Probably just a way to get a lighter sentence.

  9. Didaktylos says

    I sincerely hope that the paperwork to do with segregating them from other prisoners gets lost …

  10. D. C. Sessions says

    Anybody from the companies go to jail?

    The companies themselves are now being held in their own detention facilities.

    As the saying goes, I’ll believe that companies are people (“my friends”) when one of them is executed. Right now, the going statutory limit for killing an employee is $7000.

  11. eric says

    @4:

    I don’t know how much he actually means it, but whichever judge they quoted at least didn’t equivocate at all in his statement. Doesn’t excuse it one little bit, but it’s more self-awareness than you often see.

    IIRC, he admitted to taking the money but claimed it didn’t influence any of his decisions. That is not self-awareness, its narcisstic self-delusion.

  12. timberwoof says

    Congratulations! The corruption of running a purely government function as a for-profit entity combined with the corruption of running prisons for profit has created a couple of thousand revolutionaries.

  13. slc1 says

    Re Gregory in Seattle @ #2

    I always remember a comment from Walter Reuther, who was president of the United Auto Workers to the effect that the bribers and the bribees should get the same sentence. I’m particularly sensitive to this because friends of mine who were federal government employees who accepted bribes were sent to jail while the individuals from a private company who paid the bribes were allowed to resign their positions (they weren’t even fired).

  14. Pteryxx says

    It’s a horrible story, and it’s been dragging on for a long time. Kids died because of these judges. Seven years isn’t anywhere near enough of a sentence — those guys should never get out.

    Looks like seven years is a reduction as a result of plea bargaining. The original 2009 verdict on Ciavarella, at least, was 28 years:

    Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as “kids-for-cash.”

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

    Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. His attorneys had asked for a “reasonable” sentence in court papers, saying, in effect, that he’s already been punished enough.

    “The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestation, he will forever be unjustly branded as the ‘Kids for Cash’ judge,” their sentencing memo said.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44105072/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/pennsylvania-judge-gets-years-kids-cash-case/

  15. velociraptor says

    Why are these shitstains referred to as ‘judges’? Execution for the perps and bribers should proceed, forthwith.

  16. gingerbaker says

    I don’t know.

    These two judges are too important to the system, too big in the scheme of things, to be allowed to fail. They would not have taken the bribes if they didn’t need the money.

    Obviously, an underling of the judges – perhaps a court clerk – should be prosecuted. And the judges should be given an amount of money a thousand times larger than their illegal gains for them to use as they see fit. That would be justice.

  17. says

    This was common practice in the first half of the last century, especially in the South. Often it was mining companies and steel companies paying judges (with police getting a cut) to arrest “loitering” African-Americans to work in the mines, etc until they paid off their legal fees, which they could never do after paying for own food & uniforms etc.

    Douglas Blackmon accurately called this practice a de facto continuation of slavery until WWII, as detailed in his must-read book “Slavery by Another Name”

    A documentary has been made of it too
    http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/

    If the whole private prison business model is to succeed they’ll need to get back to this horrible practice, as much as they can get away with it.

  18. MartinM says

    According to Wikipedia: “Robert Mericle, the prominent real estate developer who built the two juvenile detention facilities, pleaded guilty on September 3, to failing to disclose a felony, for not revealing to a grand jury that he had paid $2.1 million to Ciavarella and Conahan as a finder’s fee. As part of his plea, Mericle has agreed to pay $2.15 million to fund local children’s health and welfare programs. Mericle faces up to three years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine but will likely serve one year or even probation pursuant to his plea agreement.”

    Wouldn’t surprise me if the bastard still made a profit on all of this, even after his fines.

  19. Fred5 says

    Pteryxx(#16):

    Looks like seven years is a reduction as a result of plea bargaining.

    Nope, according to the article you quote Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

    Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in federal prison…

    And according to the article that Ed linked, both Ciavarella and another judge plead guilty to state charges in a plea agreement and got seven years at the state level.

    The two judges face up to seven years in prison under a plea agreement made with the state.

    The plea deal was at the state level, not the federal, so he still faces a minimum of 28 years in federal prison no matter how you look at it.

  20. Crudely Wrott says

    Seven years or twenty eight, even combined the total amount of time is less than the time, stolen and sold at market value, from young offenders.

    I suggest interment in barrels and food passed through the bung.

  21. Crudely Wrott says

    To be fair, though it pains me in this case, I should have said “incarceration” instead of “interment”.

  22. mark e.smith says

    I agree with Olav (#10). Judges are more aware than anyone else of exactly what insincere expressions of responsibility and remorse for one’s actions can be used by judges to lighten sentences.

    In cases involving people who are part of the corrupt legal system (it has nothing to do with justice whatsoever and should not be called a justice system), the corrupt legal system should recuse itself for conflict of interest and hand the criminals over to their victims for direct retribution.

  23. interrobang says

    Shouldn’t bribers by rights face more prison time than bribees? To me, offering a bribe is a worse ethical offense than taking one, in part because of the power differential that usually exists, and because the briber is creating corruption where there might otherwise not be any. Sure, someone has to be corrupt enough to take a bribe, but if no one’s offering, they’ll never get the opportunity.

  24. Erp says

    @28 Which is worst: briber or bribed?

    It depends a bit on who is asking/offering and for what. For instance if a corrupt judge (or other official) asks for a bribe in order to do what is legal (e.g., see that a civil proceeding actually makes it onto the docket), I would say the bribed is worst.

    In this case I’m not sure which side is worst, both were involved in sending innocent (or at least not that guilty) kids to jail for profit. The briber may be worst because he came up with the plan; the bribed because they had a greater public responsibility and betrayed it.

  25. Michael Heath says

    I’m a little flustered with the dialogue about bribes. Certainly those who bribed and were bribed deserve punishment consistent with the value of the bribes, but the real atrocity here is using the justice system to illegally imprison kids, in a manner I find morally similar or equivalent to kidnapping or taking them hostage.

  26. karmakin says

    What needs to happen is that these private prisons need to be given the death sentence. They need to be taken over by the Department of Justice, with the sharedholders zeroed out. Sorry, you should have paid better attention, better luck next time.

  27. ehmm says

    Human rights violation anyone?

    I’d suggest to the families of those kids that they get the best lawyers they can afford, take the bribers to civil court and sue the shit out them.

  28. says

    Why is this most despicable of crimes not being blazed all over the media? This is aggravated kidnapping. Where is the outrage?

    The bribers and bribees are equally guilty of capital crimes here. They have completely destroyed the lives and minds of children in the interests of profit.

    They trade in the lives of children for money? That would make these racketeers human trafficers, and they need to be punished accordingly.

    Lock the lot of them away forever. The judges should be singled out for especial opprobrium before they are cast into Kīlauea.

  29. says

    Where are the KKKristianists in all of this? Nothing from them? I regularly have to endure their verbal handwringing on NPR while they piss and moan about the dangers posed by video games, porn and drugs to the immortal souls of MurKKKin youth. I suppose that the corporeal bodies of young folks being merely mortal makes them much less important, still…

    I’m sure that there are plenty of lawsuits prepped and waiting only for the dust from this to settle so they can go after the assholes involved.

    It’s just too bad for the two judges that they weren’t RCC priests or bishops, they could’ve gotten an all expense paid trip to the Vatican.

  30. Aliasalpha says

    Childcare?

    CHILDCARE???

    Fucking hell I just want to punch someone until I break my knuckles. What are those prison company execs up to these days?

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