Our neighbors in Pennsylvania lead the nation in the number of private detention facilities in the nation. Leave it to two Keystone State judges to come up with a new scheme to turn state-sponsored child abuse into their own personal money-making machine.
This story appeared on www.cnn.com on 2/24/09. Here is the link: http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/02/23/pennsylvania.corrupt.judges/.
In February 2009, a federal court sentenced former Luzerne County President Judge mark Ciavarella and Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan for federal charges of tax fraud for accepting kickbacks from a private juvenille detention facilitity for sentencing kids to prison terms in their facility.
The corruption began in 2002 when Conahan shut down the county juvenille detention center and used money from the county budget to lease the private facility. Despite some criticism, the county commissioners approved the deal.
In exchange for sending inmates to the facility, Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corp. paid money to the judges for sentencing youths to prison terms. Many of they youths sent to the jail committed minor infractions that would almost never result in a custodial sentence if the case went before an impartial judge. Often, youths that were given disproportionatly heavy sentences were not represented by an attorney.
The CNN article cited an example of one 14 year old youth who stole pocket change from an unlocked vehicle to buy chips and a soft drink. This first offense resulted in a 9 month jail term.
CNN quoted a report from the Philadelphia-based Juvenille Law Center which stated that about 50 percent of children who waived counsel before Judge Ciavarella were sentenced to jail terms while the Pennsylvania Juvenille Court Judges' Commission found that on the average 8.4 percent of juveniles statewide receive custodial sentences.
Imagine the opportunities New Jersey politicians and judges will get to obtain graft at our children's expense if more juvenille facilities in this state are privatized.