On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner found two Pennsylvania judges responsible for $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive penalties to 300 persons for their roles in a "kids-for-cash" scheme.
According to the Associated Press, the ruling concerns former Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, who are accused of sending young children to a for-profit jail in exchange for $2.8 million in payments from the owner of the penitentiaries, while simultaneously closing down a county-run juvenile detention center.
Pennsylvania's "kids for cash" judges, who orchestrated a scheme to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks, have been ordered to pay more than $200 million to hundreds who fell victim to their crimes. https://t.co/yTjWKmCijp
— Michael Rubinkam (@michaelrubinkam) August 17, 2022
According to the Associated Press, Ciavarella would send kids as young as eight years old to jail for offences such as petty stealing, and he would frequently prevent the children from even saying goodbye to their families. According to the outlet, the judge was previously found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to 28 years in prison for receiving $1 million in kickbacks from the builders of for-profit jails.
According to reports by the Associated Press, Conahan was given a sentence of 17 years in prison but was allowed to serve out his sentence under home confinement after 11 years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to ABC News, when the scheme was exposed, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out nearly all of the juvenile delinquent cases that Ciavarella had handled.
In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit lockups. https://t.co/0YpRpozJNq
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 17, 2022
Marsha Levick, chief legal officer at the Juvenile Law Center, described the decision as a "huge victory" in an interview with the Associated Press.
“To have an order from a federal court that recognizes the gravity of what the judges did to these children in the midst of some of the most critical years of their childhood and development matters enormously, whether or not the money gets paid,” Levick told the outlet.