[Ppnews] Judges Nabbed, Jailing Kids for Kickbacks

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 12 11:40:32 EST 2009


February 12, 2009

Judges Nabbed, Jailing Kids for Kickbacks


When I was a journalism fellow at Columbia 
University back in the late 1970s, one of the 
guest speakers on our program’s schedule was then 
SEC Chief of Enforcement (and former CIA chief 
counsel and now Federal Judge) Stanley Sporkin. I 
remember during a dinner we had with him, Sporkin 
was asked how SEC investigators were able to find 
financial scams.  (That was back when the SEC 
actually did uncover financial scams.)

Sporkin said that people in the enforcement 
division of the agency would actually sit around 
and dream up scams. “Then when they figured one 
out, they would go out and look for it, and 
usually they’d find people doing it,” he said.

Now, a particularly ugly scam has just been 
uncovered here in Pennsylvania. Up in 
Wilkes-Barre, the old coal-mining part of the 
state up in the northeast, two state judges have 
been charged with sending hundreds of kids to two 
private juvenile detention centers in return for 
kickbacks from the two centers­kickbacks that 
allegedly ran to over $2 million.

According to an Associated Press report, “Luzerne 
County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan 
took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile 
offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and 
a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The 
judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from 
the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court 
shortly afterward.”

So far, the two companies and their owners have 
not been charged with any offense, the report 
says. Most of the children who were sent into 
detention, often for months, had one thing in 
common: they were poor and they were not 
represented by lawyers. (Many were placed in 
detention even against the recommendations of 
their probation officers.)

The two judges are said to be ready to plead 
guilty in return for sentences of not more than 
seven years, which seems a tad on the light side 
to me for two judges who so outrageously abused 
the justice system by sending hundreds of kids 
into detention for minor infractions, like making 
a MySpace page to ridicule a school assistant 
principal, or allegedly stealing coins from a 
parked car. I’d lock these guys up for life­maybe 
in a juvenile home where the kids could make them 
pay. But aside from this particularly disgusting 
example of judicial corruption, I’m struck by how 
easy it was, apparently, for judges to get lured 
into a financial scheme involving providing 
bodies for a for-profit penal institution.

The nation, these days, is filled with for-profit 
prisons, not just for holding kids, but for 
holding adults. Motels have been bought up by 
giant firms like Corrections Corporation of 
America and turned into minimum security 
prisons.   We live in a society where greed knows 
no bounds, and where justice is just a word when 
it comes to poor people without resources.

Based upon what Judge Sporkin says the 
enforcement people at the SEC discovered­that if 
you think of a scam, some criminal minds 
certainly have already thought of it and are 
doing it--I am willing to bet that if two judges 
in Pennsylvania could be found to have come up 
with a scam like this to earn themselves big 
bucks by putting kids away in private 
institutions for kickbacks, plenty of other 
judges are doing the same thing, both with kids 
and with adult prisoners. So here’s a pitch: If 
any defense attorneys, probation officers or 
other people think that they know of cases where 
this is happening, I want to hear about it. Send your tips and contact info to:

ThisCan’tBeHappening, POB 846, Ambler, PA 19002

Dave Lindorff is a 
Philadelphia-based  journalist. His latest book 
is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s 
Press, 2006). His work is available at 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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