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.