Judges Plead Guilty in Juvenile Detention Pay-Off Scheme

Even Charles Dickens would never have come up with this one:

[Judge] Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

Among the victims: A 17 year old who spoofed her principal on My Space got 3 months in juvenile detention. Total number of victims since the pair began the scheme in 2003: 5,000 juveniles. [More...]

The judges won't be getting a slap on the wrist: their plea agreements call for 87 months. They also lose their pensions.

As for broader implications:

[The case] raised concerns about whether juveniles should be required to have counsel either before or during their appearances in court and whether juvenile courts should be open to the public or child advocates.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Of course juveniles should have (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 11:55:05 PM EST
    counsel.  Appalling.  I'd lock these two up for lots more than 87 months.

    They also lose their pensions? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by weltec2 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:07:15 AM EST
    In other words they are punishing not only the judges, but their spouses and whole families as well. Does this seem right to everyone?

    Yes (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by Steve M on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:12:53 AM EST
    Otherwise it's like saying you can never punish anyone who's a breadwinner.  A pension is personal, it's not some future vested entitlement of your spouse or children.

    Their spouses and families (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Amiss on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:21:22 AM EST
    benefitted from the kickbacks, didnt they? I see no reason for them to receive a pension, that is like rewarding them for bad behavior.

    maybe they should (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Jen M on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 07:45:04 AM EST
    be glad their kids weren't locked up like the 5,000

    How about the families of the juveniles? (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by SoCalDem on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:14:41 AM EST
    Of course thats fair, these are judges they are supposed to be above board. I think he already got his pension, in the money he got for sending the kids to these particular camps. How about the suffering of the kids and their families, these places are never in a convenient place for visiting, and the cost to the families is not small. I'm glad that they will have to suffer as well. Thats one for the little guy!

    One preventative (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by cal1942 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:52:08 AM EST
    is the elimination of all private for profit detention centers, jails, etc.

    This is a public responsibility and should never be an opportunity for profit.

    We have to thank for this conservative tax cutters and irresponsible Conservative anti-tax crusaders.

    As a people we have to blame for this ourselves.

    Yes, another (none / 0) (#16)
    by KeysDan on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:44:54 PM EST
    failed policy in action--with readily observable, and, tragic, outcomes.

    don't forget (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jen M on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 03:08:23 PM EST

    Does this seem right to everyone? (none / 0) (#5)
    by jharp on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:24:09 AM EST
    Yes, without question.

    MAKING CRIME PAY (none / 0) (#7)
    by WinstonSmith on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 06:50:00 AM EST
    It gets worse! The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was aware of this scam for about two years before the indictments were announced. A juvenile justice advocacy group had petitioned the Court for review of all juvenile dispositions in Luzerne County after it appeared that the county's incarceration rate of juveniles was two and a half times the state average. Although the Attorney General joined in the petition, the Supreme Court denied relief. One of the detention centers involved was owned by the son of our former Chief Justice. Apparently, crime does pay in Pennsylvania. And handsomely at that!

    juveniles (none / 0) (#8)
    by indesq on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 07:19:59 AM EST
    the consequences of juvenile convictions and incarceration go far longer than the age in which we all used to believe juvenile issues don't matter.

    I have been looking for just the right case in indiana to argue that juveniles have the constitutional right to trial by jury because of the subsequent punishments (sex offender registrations, future bonds, suspendabilitity of adult sentencing, and other issues)

    Because there is never a jury involved, these juvenile magistrates become all powerful.   The number of juvenile judges nationally that end up charged with sexual malfeasance with juveniles is simply shocking.

    Right up there... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:33:14 AM EST
    with murder, rape, and child molestation on the list of most heinous crimes imagineable...I think these 2 sickos are in for a long 87 months of jailhouse justice...they don't take kindly to child abusers in the pen, lowest of the low in the prison caste system.

    It's probably wrong but I take heart in that.

    In contrast, in my state, the county (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:32:17 AM EST
    pays the cost of juvenile detention, whether it is at the Youth Authority, local honor camp, 24-hour "school," Outward Bound (wagon train in AZ), etc.  

    I believe the county (none / 0) (#18)
    by of1000Kings on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 02:13:19 PM EST
    may have been paying the price for the detentions in this case too...

    I'm just amazed that these private detention centers were making SO MUCH money off of their local taxpayers that they were able to give millions of the taxpayers dollars to judges...

    shouldn't there be a TON of outrage and coverage for this?  what is more outrageous than a judge being bought, using taxpayer money no less....

    oh wait, taking a hit from a bong is way more outrageous than a judge taking kickbacks to put kids in detention centers, that's right....I forgot I lived in America for a second....


    Oh fer cripe's sake. Disgusting. (none / 0) (#14)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:07:21 PM EST
    Do all lawyers think they're too smart to have to follow the law, or is it just judge lawyers?

    Write to the judge (none / 0) (#15)
    by hgardner on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:18:58 PM EST
    As lawyers, the behavior of these judges affects all of us by undermining confidence in the system.  Write to the sentencing judge to demand a longer sentence.  He is not required to take the agreement; let them go to trial.

    He has ordered probation to interview every kid sentenced by these judges so it will take a L-o-n-g time to get the PSIR, plenty of time to mount a campaign against the sweetheart sentences.  

    Interview? (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:49:41 PM EST
    Just interviews?  Seems to me an immmediate release order for every kid unfortunate enough to stand before these judges to be immediately released.

    If we're gonna err, lets err in the name of freedom and justice and fair trials for a change.


    the damage done (none / 0) (#20)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Feb 17, 2009 at 11:39:32 AM EST
    What these judges have done is so outrageous.  I read about this when it first broke and I could hardly believe it.  The damage they have done to these children is incalculable.  And every justice on the state supreme court who refused to look into this situation should all be impeached.  The attorney general's office knew something was wrong.  The state social services agency knew something was wrong.  Attorneys for these kids knew something was wrong.  And yet, these justices all looked the other way until the rampant corruption at the expense of these children was splashed across the front pages of the paper.  

    Just a note on the damage done to these children . . . Studies have shown that a child who spends just one day in juvenile detention has worse outcomes in the following areas:  high school graduation, mental health, chemical dependency, employment, future criminal behavior.  So, way to go, judges!