William Ecenbarger on the ‘Kids for Cash’ scandal
November 26, 2012
Between 2003 and 2008, Luzerne County juvenile court judge Mark Ciavarelli sentenced thousands of children who committed minor offenses to months of incarceration in two private, for-profit juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania. The youngsters and their families were encouraged to waive their right to legal representation out of fear that were they to do so, the judge would impose a harsher sentence. In return, the owners of the centers rewarded Ciavarelli and his colleague, former president judge Michael Conahan, with millions of dollars in kickbacks. A conspiracy of silence among court staff, educators and probation officers enabled the scandal which wreaked havoc on the lives of many of its young victims. In his new book, Kids for Cash, journalist WILLIAM ECENBARGER tells the story of what legal scholars have called one of the worst judicial scandals in American history. He joins us in the studio to talk about the scheme, the perpetrators, the victims and the complicated juvenile justice system.