Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pennsylvania judges admit taking bribes to jail teenagers

On Wednesday I reported that two Pennsylvania judges had been accused of taking bribes from a company that ran a juvenile detention centre in return for sending them plenty of inmates. It turns out the story is everything it seemed.

Reuters reports:

Two judges pleaded guilty on Thursday to accepting more than $2.6 million from a private youth detention center in Pennsylvania in return for giving hundreds of youths and teenagers long sentences.

Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan of the Court of Common Pleas in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, entered plea agreements in federal court in Scranton admitting that they took payoffs from PA Childcare and a sister company, Western PA Childcare, between 2003 and 2006.

"Your statement that I have disgraced my judgeship is true," Ciavarella wrote in a letter to the court. "My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame."

Conahan, who along with Ciavarella faces up to seven years in prison, did not make any comment on the case.

The story goes on to explain that hen someone is sent to a detention centre, the company running it receives money from the county government to meet the cost of incarceration. So, prosecutors said, as more children were sent to their centre, PA Childcare and Western PA Childcare received more money from the government.

So teenagers who came before the juvenile court in Wilkes-Barre were often sentenced to detention for minor offences. One 17-year-old boy was sentenced to three months' detention for being in the company of another minor caught shoplifting.

Reuters continues:

The Constitution guarantees the right to legal representation in U.S. courts. But many of the juveniles appeared before Ciavarella without an attorney because they were told by the probation service that their minor offenses didn't require one.

Marsha Levick, chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center, estimated that of approximately 5,000 juveniles who came before Ciavarella from 2003 and 2006, between 1,000 and 2,000 received excessively harsh detention sentences. She said the center will sue the judges, PA Childcare and Western PA Childcare for financial compensation for their victims.

"That judges would allow their greed to trump the rights of defendants is just obscene," Levick said.

There is full coverage of this scandal at the Scranton Times Tribune site. And a good report in the New York Times too.

Finally, a big hello to the anonymous commenter on my original post who mentioned the Wilkes-Barre variation of the Two Knights Defence.


Joe Otten said...

Black to move? d5 or you're in trouble.

Jonathan Calder said...

It's White to move and he has to be careful - analysis here.