Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pennsylvania judges accused of locking up children for cash

Many years ago I reviewed the first edition of Nils Christie's book Crime Control as Industry for Liberator. As a review of the third edition by Peter Wagner says:
Crime Control as Industry ... tracks how an industry has arisen to manage crime. And like any industry, the crime control industry is not about to say on its own: "Stop, we have enough of the market. We don't need to grow."
Wagner goes on to summarise two more of Christie's important arguments:
First Christie argues that the applicable political economy to describe prisons is not slavery, but of the old work-houses, where the objective was not profit for the State, but for private parties to relieve the State of its unwanted population at the lowest cost possible. 
The second sharp observation is that justice itself has been mechanized to cope with the influx of raw materials and remove a democratic restraint upon growth. Mandatory minimums and the sentencing guidelines have served to remove discretion from judges, turning them into little more than secretaries for the legislature.
As the the profit motive has invaded the judicial system to such an extent, and judges have lost their status, we should not be surprised by stories like this one from the Associated Press:
For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses. 
The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench. 
In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.


Anonymous said...

I'd only heard of Wilkes-Barre as the name of a dodgy line in the Two Knights Defence (4...Bc5) and had assumed it was named after either one or two players.

Jonathan Calder said...

As I recall the Wilkes-Barre works well if White is greedy, but not if he sensible and just takes the pawn with check.