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  #1  
Old 02-11-2009, 07:01 PM
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Ah yes The Benefits of Privitization of Penal Services

Capitalism at it's finest.

Pa. judges accused of jailing kids for cash

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM and MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press Writers Michael Rubinkam And Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press Writers 39 mins ago
Kurt Kruger, who spent three days in juvenile detention and another four months AP Kurt Kruger, who spent three days in juvenile detention and another four months at a youth wilderness

* Judges accused of taking payoffs to jail kids Slideshow:Judges accused of taking payoffs to jail kids

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. 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.

"I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Prosecutors say 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.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on.

The high court, meanwhile, is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the juveniles' records expunged.

Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.

Many appeared without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel.

The judges are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud Thursday in federal court. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years behind bars.

Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County's juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, "I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame." Ciavarella, though, has denied he got kickbacks for sending youths to prison.

Conahan, 56, has remained silent about the case.

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day.

In Luzerne County, prosecutors say, Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure rich contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, at least some of that dependent on how many juveniles were locked up.

One of the contracts a 20-year agreement with PA Child Care worth an estimated $58 million was later canceled by the county as exorbitant.

The judges are accused of taking payoffs between 2003 and 2006.

Robert J. Powell co-owned PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care until June. His attorney, Mark Sheppard, said his client was the victim of an extortion scheme.

"Bob Powell never solicited a nickel from these judges and really was a victim of their demands," he said. "These judges made it very plain to Mr. Powell that he was going to be required to pay certain monies."

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella was ridiculously harsh and ran roughshod over youngsters' constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of one in 10.

The criminal charges confirmed the advocacy groups' worst suspicions and have called into question all the sentences he pronounced.

Hillary Transue did not have an attorney, nor was she told of her right to one, when she appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom in 2007 for building a MySpace page that lampooned her assistant principal.

Her mother, Laurene Transue, worked for 16 years in the child services department of another county and said she was certain Hillary would get a slap on the wrist. Instead, Ciavarella sentenced her to three months; she got out after a month, with help from a lawyer.

"I felt so disgraced for a while, like, what do people think of me now?" said Hillary, now 17 and a high school senior who plans to become an English teacher.

Laurene Transue said Ciavarella "was playing God. And not only was he doing that, he was getting money for it. He was betraying the trust put in him to do what is best for children."

Kurt Kruger, now 22, had never been in trouble with the law until the day police accused him of acting as a lookout while his friend shoplifted less than $200 worth of DVDs from Wal-Mart. He said he didn't know his friend was going to steal anything.

Kruger pleaded guilty before Ciavarella and spent three days in a company-run juvenile detention center, plus four months at a youth wilderness camp run by a different operator.

"Never in a million years did I think that I would actually get sent away. I was completely destroyed," said Kruger, who later dropped out of school. He said he wants to get his record expunged, earn his high school equivalency diploma and go to college.

"I got a raw deal, and yeah, it's not fair," he said, "but now it's 100 times bigger than me."

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Old 02-11-2009, 07:07 PM
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That's why some things just shouldn't be privatized.
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Old 02-11-2009, 07:37 PM
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Another failure of capitolism.
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:12 PM
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Was the judge privatized, too? I'm confused.
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:21 PM
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  #6  
Old 02-11-2009, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by DieselAddict View Post
That's why some things just shouldn't be privatized.

No, that's why Judge's shouldn't break the law

I'm very familiar with privately contracted prisons, and the only one I know of that sucks is the one in the article. Think there are any govt. run prisons that have ever had a problem? (check netflix, if you don't have it)

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Old 02-11-2009, 08:53 PM
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You have to wonder if every private prison is at some point going to be motivated to keep it's client stock active - in prison that is.

The movie "The Last Emperor" had an intersting bit of the plot where the emperor was being re-educated in a Maoist detention camp of some sort. No praise of Maoism here, just the story, who knows how true it was but it's illustrative of my point. The emperor was jaded and weak, could barely tie his own shoes and when the central guard/re-educator figure noticed that the emperor's former attendant was still behaving as though the emperor needed having his shoes put on, the guard took steps to introduce some actual manhood to the emperor.

Later in the film, the emperor was working semi-anonomously as a gardener and saw the guard who he'd come to respect being herded through the streets by cultural revolution thugs in the 60s. The emperor tried to stop them with "No, he's a good man!" to no avail. Again, probably pure fiction but I'm sure people like that have lived and worked.

How much is a private prison ever going to be concerned with actual rehabilitation?
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
Was the judge privatized, too? I'm confused.
They are too.
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by RichC View Post
Another failure of capitolism.
Another failure of the public school system.
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by cmac2012 View Post
...
How much is a private prison ever going to be concerned with actual rehabilitation?
Compared to the relentless stream of successes evident in the current system, right?
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by DieselAddict View Post
That's why some things just shouldn't be privatized.
Check out Florida on privatized prisons, then check out the current situation in CA where up to 5K prisoners are about to be released this week or next.
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Old 02-11-2009, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
Compared to the relentless stream of successes evident in the current system, right?
I've read of plenty of cases of people turning their lives around in prison. Whether or not that was purely a function of the buried good sense they had managed to pick up in earlier years or partly due to some program or good counselor is hard to say.

MSNBC has a show they run now and then about groups of prisoners (only seen it involving male prisoners so far) meeting in groups where they confess what they've done and attempt to work up an understanding of their culpability in their misfortune. Looks pretty real to me and I'm betting it has better outcomes than merely ringing a bell when it's time to eat.

Rehab is not good now, it's true. Should we instead run in the opposite direction?
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Old 02-11-2009, 09:30 PM
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This sort of thing was common in the 1930's in the south. If the country or state needed more labor to build roads.... Round up the ususal suspects!

I like to think that now we are past this third world sort of behavior, but in a society where there is little respect for the rules and the chances of getting caught are low these things will take place.

Until the mid 1970's a Justice of the Peace in many southern states was still paid a percentage of the fines they collected for the county. Can you say 'speed trap"?
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by cmac2012 View Post
I've read of plenty of cases of people turning their lives around in prison. Whether or not that was purely a function of the buried good sense they had managed to pick up in earlier years or partly due to some program or good counselor is hard to say.

MSNBC has a show they run now and then about groups of prisoners (only seen it involving male prisoners so far) meeting in groups where they confess what they've done and attempt to work up an understanding of their culpability in their misfortune. Looks pretty real to me and I'm betting it has better outcomes than merely ringing a bell when it's time to eat.

Rehab is not good now, it's true. Should we instead run in the opposite direction?
Talk about turing life around in prison, check out what's been going on in Angola Prison. It's amazing the decrease in violence these recent years.

I doubt that rehab is limited to a particular type of institution. It probably has a lot to do with the prison population
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:57 PM
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Can't find an article about that right off but I remember seeing a bit about the rodeo on the tube. That can't hurt.

I think being off the street and being forced to wear the damn prison pajamas is punishment all by itself. This business of "if we educate them we aren't punishing them" is not well founded, IMO. If they can come out with a little more sense than they went in with, sure seems like it might be an efficient use of effort, that is, trade a chronic prisoner for a tax-payer.

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