Judges jailed for taking bribes from private juvie prisons to send kids to jail

Two senior Pennsylvania judges have been sentenced to seven years in prison for taking bribes from juvenile detention centers -- in exchange for the bribes, the judges turned in guilty verdicts for the teens who appeared before them and sent them to juvie, thus enriching the operators of the kiddy gulag. For this, the judges received $2.6 million in kickbacks.
First, the judges helped the detention centers land a county contract worth $58 million. Then their alleged scheme was to guarantee the operators a steady income by detaining juveniles, often on petty stuff.

Many of the kids were railroaded, according to allegations lodged with the state Supreme Court last year by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, an advocacy group.

In asking the court to intervene in April, the law center cited hundreds of examples where teens accused of minor mischief were pressured to waive their right to lawyers, and then shipped to a detention center.

One teen was given a 90-day sentence for having parodied a school administrator online. Such unwarranted detentions left "both children and parents feeling bewildered, violated and traumatized," center lawyers said.

"Very few people would stand up" to the Luzerne judges, according to the law center's executive director, Robert G. Schwartz.

Editorial: Judges Sentenced (Thanks, Marilyn!)



  1. just seven years? No wonder the public contempt for the legal system mushrooms with every passing year.
    They were JUDGES. Nothing less than life.

  2. Y’know, we’re used to waiving kids’ rights (including first amendment rights) in the name of order. I wouldn’t be surprised if these thug judges rationalized their corruption in the name of setting these kids “straight.”

    I hope they get a stronger sentence and inspire us to give a little more thought to this issue.

  3. Now how often does this kind of thing happen in more subtle ways? How about undertaking a serious examination of the relationship between mandatory minimum sentencing, harsh convictions for petty drug offenses, and the influence of private prison operators?

  4. wow…

    this definitively doesn’t mean that our the prison-industrial complex is fundamentally broken, of course, or that it should be a fundamental point of public discourse. just two bad apples. that is all. carry on. steampunk!

  5. Not many things I read these days cause my jaw to literally drop, but that’s a new low. I’ve got nothing. Stop the world, I wanna get off.

  6. and they call them “honorable”….
    These judges need to be imprisoned for 20 years and bankrupt by paying back every kid he screwed.

  7. agree with takuan – 7 years is no-where near enough. this kind of thing makes me so angry! i hope they get raped in jail.

  8. A whole new level of the Prison Industrial Complex. Masterful system really, just like Shawshank, just scams within scams, designed to enrich a few, while it terrorizes, criminalizes, and debases people, families, and communities.

    Thankfully, I live in NY, where we have the most draconian drugs laws on the books (10 year minimum sentence for 1, yes 1 (one) ounce of weed). Ensures young black men from the city get sent upstate to poor, rural, hick communities (like the one I’m from), released years later with no place to go, and then settle in places like Rochester with a cousin, are unable to find jobs because of their record, have to turn to selling drugs and gangs to survive, and allows Rochester to develop a neighborhood so notorious it becomes known as “the Death cresent” (as opposed to the fetile cresent).

    It’s sometimes hard to remember to be hopeful when things like this happen.

  9. Damn. That sort of behavior merits nothing less than being dropped in the general population of San Quentin (or, here, its PA equivalent).

  10. Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. ascended to the Luzerne County judiciary a decade-and-a-half ago with a pledge to “return to a time when values had importance.”


    Conahan told The Citizens’ Voice in November 1992 (speaking of himself) … “We need someone who has been on the frontline, cleaning up the streets of criminals and those who prey on our young … ”


    Meanwhile… In America… The land of the brave/free/whatever…

    Old Bridge man gets 7 years for growing marijuana

  11. Official corruption is the primary problem in American political life today.
    What about campaign finance reform?
    D’ya think the “war on drugs” tends to increase or decrease corruption? Why?

  12. The kids these judges sentenced probably have a ratio of about 100 lawyers to each kid looking to get the best deal to present as a class action lawsuit. Charlie Stross wonders about the scum who paid the judges? That’s what’ll happen. Some criminal charges would be nice too, but don’t count on it. This is white collar crime.

  13. This would be an excellent origin story for a Batman villain – sent to jail by a corrupt judge as a teenager for a relatively minor infraction, when he gets out he makes it his goal to ruin the judge’s life. And when Batman apprehends the villain, he also give the state evidence of the judge’s corruption and makes it clear he caused it.

    And how’s he gonna feel in prison, surrounded by all the kids he unfairly put in there?

  14. This is awful – like something straight out of Dickens. I can’t imagine how these judges live with themselves. Then again, the private prison system creates a perverse set of incentives.

    We should ban private prisons and start dismantling the prison industrial complex. There should be no profit motive in the prison system.

  15. I grew up in Luzerne county (where this took place) and was talking to my Mother, who still lives in the county, about this last week. I have a younger brother who would always say that you didn’t want to go up against these two judges if you ever got in trouble because, if you did, it was a guarantee you were going to be locked up. Now we find out it’s the complete and total truth for such reasons.

    The 7-year sentence is due to a plea bargain. This didn’t even make it to trial. The restitution payments are going to be huge as well.

    Apparently, more judges are prepping to fall in this as well. Of the county’s 7 judges, I think 3 are going to remain after another scandal recently (of which I can’t recall the details). It’s a mess. And a shame that my hometown only makes the news when something like this happens (or if the Office is in town, of course).

  16. And how many other judges are doing this?

    We’ve made prison profitable. We’re now surprised the prison operators are purchasing citizens/customers from judges. Really.

    Greed is not good. This should be the phrase tattooed across the foreheads of every conservative in the US to commemorate the last 29 years.

    And, oh yes, execute the bastards.

  17. Apparently if regular people kidnap minors they are up for the Death Penalty but if you’re a judge you get less than the amount for robbing a store.

  18. How is this not the top item on every newspaper and broadcast right now?
    Oh yeah, I forgot who owns all that stuff.

  19. #17 – the judge is just a ‘wee bit’ older. They got sent to Juvenile facilities, so they are all under 18.

  20. It’s a happy side-effect of making punishment a profit center. Think of it as the, um, visible hand of the Free Market in action. Plus, if those kids hadn’t been put away, they’d just be wearing baggy pants and listening to the rapping music.

  21. That’s absolutely disgusting.

    I’ve had a few acquaintances and friends in ‘juvenile detention centers’.

    The prison hierarchy and protection system which results in rape and a perverse sort of prostitution in exchange for protection is alive and well in the under-eighteen prisons.

    7 years for men who put youngsters in such positions?

    I’ve seen worse sentences for smoking pot.

  22. They were able to get two judges to betray their oath of office and the very ideals that define their profession for just $2.6 million? That’s a steal! I wonder how much they spent on Senators.

  23. Same thing happens with supervised visitation, which effectively is a prison for a parent child relationship.

    Judges help setup and run supervised visitation centers so that parents who are bad guys can see their kids under the watchful eyes of state contracted monitors, subsidized by the federal taxpayer.

    Judges then sometimes draw salaries and other benefits from these visitation centers, and sometimes have relatives working there.

    Same judges decide who is a “bad guy”. Turns out, bad guy can be pretty broadly defined, including any parent who hasn’t seen their kid in six months or more, including soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

    In case you were wondering, parents do have a constitutionally protected right to the care, upbringing, and education of their children, and it is fundamental liberty interest, on par with physical liberty (not being in jail), and protected by the fourteenth amendment’s due process rights See: Troxel V Granville. (Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. None of this is legal advice).

    It’s also the same with child custody. Judges decide how much time each parent spends with his/her child, but in many locations, the judge’s employer, if not the judge himself/herself, get more taxpayer money if he/she decides that the parent earning less gets to spend more time with the child, and the parent earning more gets to spend less time with the child, through Title IV-D conflicts of interest.

    Financial conflicts of interest:

    Reports of possible racketeering in one local agency:

  24. Unless I’m reading other articles on this issue wrong – the plea agreements have yet to be accepted – so the sentencing has yet to occur.

    And while I’m extremely cynical, I would be a bit surprised if this plea was accepted.

    Some things can be overlooked, but this? If it gets national attention, there really isn’t any way to bury it.
    I sincerely hope the victims and their families raise as much hell as is humanly possible about this. I hope they’ve been calling around, trying to find the most bloodthirsty scumbag ambulance chasers in the country.

    Because, really, it would be stupid to pretend this level of corruption is possible without *cough* “community support” *cough*

    And you can bet that “community support” would like nothing more than for this to go away so they don’t come under scrutiny. It’s stupid to think they won’t try their hardest to make sure this gets taken care of quickly.

    Their actions need to be seen for what they are – using the resources of the state to engage in repeated acts of assault and kidnapping of minors.
    7 years is unacceptable.
    They need to die in prison.

    Then again, this is the US legal system…

  25. Just imagine what this world would be like if the penalties for abuse of power were commensurate with the amount of power vested in you by the public.

    Why, the economy would be in shambles!

  26. White collar crime? Not if even one of the children where assaulted while illegally imprisoned, that would make a case for criminal endangerment. Bastards, bastards all!

  27. @#20: ctbllr:

    “Grd s nt gd. Ths shld b th phrs tttd crss th frhds f vry cnsrvtv n th S t cmmmrt th lst 29 yrs.”

    Srry, ths gys wr Dmcrts, nt Rpblcns.

    nd f y hvn’t bn pyng ttntn, Tm Dschl, Chrls Rngl, Chrs Ddd nd r nw Trsry Scrtry Tm Gthnr r ll glty s sn f tx vsn.

    Tk ‘m LL t tsk.

  28. @39

    “Sorry, these guys were Democrats, not Republicans.”

    You conflate party affiliation with conservatism. Not a strong correlation.

    “And if you haven’t been paying attention, Tom Daschle, Charles Rangel, Chris Dodd and our new Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are all guilty as sin of tax evasion.”

    Seriously? You’re conflating tax evasion with falsely imprisoning children?

    I think all those tax dodgers should be removed from public office, but I think these judges need to be in jail until they’re not breathin’ anymore.

    And you bringing them into this conversation makes me think you want to decrease the impact of these judges, and that makes me think you’re a pretty despicable person. I don’t care WHAT party you’re in, and I don’t care WHAT political philosophy you espouse. If you wrap yourself in the false mantle of being tough on crime (yes, Virginia, that is a conservative stalking horse), while taking money from people who imprison children, you are a subhuman monster.

  29. in a way, this is a good thing. Too bad about all the children damaged (or maybe even killed). But it reminds people what the truth is when they walk into a court room.

  30. Isn’t this how a generation of rebels is born? Or can someone suggest a more efficient way to convert your functioning civil society into anarchy and cash?

  31. not rebels, revolutionaries. Your civil society has always been a cash society for law like anything else. Cops are security guards for the rich, lawyers work for money, judges are lawyers and the whole thing hangs together so long as there aren’t too many poor. You need some to feed the jails, but not TOO many. When law gets too expensive for working people to buy their tiny slices, the system fails. Then people forget law and start thinking about justice. And justice is ALWAYS something you make yourself.

  32. @Moofie:

    “Seriously? You’re conflating tax evasion with falsely imprisoning children?”

    Cat(whatever)’s comment was about tattooing conservatives (and democrats are not conservatives, sorry) with the motto “Greed is not good”. Tax evasion is greed.

    “And you bringing them into this conversation makes me think you want to decrease the impact of these judges, and that makes me think you’re a pretty despicable person.”

    Heh. You can’t argue with me so you begin the ad hominem attacks. Nicely played!

  33. Now check out the reason for the AZ immigration bill…..actually drafted by private prison management company execs. Check the papers, fill the cells, grow the mgmt companies’ profits, make the campaign contributions, create jobs in your state…. Shame on you, governor. Anyone ever wonder why they didn’t finish that fence? If you keep them out – you can’t lock ’em up. There’s no money in that.

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