There is one GLARING omission from the stories around what has been described as “one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit America’s juvenile justice system”.
The story began unfolding in 2007, when parents in a central Pennsylvania county began to complain that their children had been tossed into for-profit youth centers without a lawyer to represent them. As the case unfolded over eight year, the corruption was discovered.
The kickback scheme became known as “kids for cash,” and has resulted in prison terms for two Luzerne County judges and two businessmen, while convictions of thousands of juveniles have been tossed out.
Further, one of those claims against the men drew to a close Monday, when a federal judge signed off on a settlement in which one of the businessmen, Robert Powell, would pay $4.75 million. The actual payouts will begin in December, after the plaintiffs choose whether to accept the settlement.
Powell, who co-owned two private juvenile justice facilities, served an 18-month prison term after admitting to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to former Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. and his boss, Judge Michael Conahan. In return, Ciavarella routinely found children guilty and sent them to Powell’s facilities.
Ok, I will end the suspense: ALL PLAINTIFFS, JUDGES AND BUSINESSMEN ARE DEMOCRATS!
Marsha Levick, deputy director of Juvenile Law Center, the Philadelphia non-profit that sparked the case when it began investigating questionable juvenile lockups in Luzerne County in 2007 said,
“Justice has been done as much as it can be done through the legal process, but it’s an incomplete reckoning…How do you put a price on the kids’ constitutional rights, on being removed from their communities and taken from their schools and everything else they suffered?”