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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WSJ on "Kids for Cash" Judges: Lock 'Em Up

Lock 'Em Up
Jailing kids is a proud American tradition
The Wall Street Journal by THOMAS FRANK - April 1, 2009

At first glance, the news from Luzerne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, is not good. In what is known locally as the "kids for cash" scandal, two judges have pleaded guilty to accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks from a for-profit juvenile correctional facility -- a privately owned jail for kids, essentially. And here is what the judges delivered, according to the charges of the U.S. Attorney overseeing the case: In 2003 one of them, Judge Michael Conahan, who had authority over such expenses, defunded the county-owned detention center, channeling kids sentenced to detention to the private jail -- along with the public's money. For good measure, the feds charge, Mr. Conahan also agreed to send the private facility $1.3 million per year in public funds. Over the succeeding years, the private jail, along with a second lockup-for-profit that had opened in another part of the state, won tens of millions of dollars in Luzerne County contracts, allegedly with the two judges' help. What has drawn the media's attention, though, is the remarkable strictness of the judges' judging. Mr. Conahan's alleged partner in the scheme, Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., reportedly sent kids to the private detention centers when probation officers didn't think it was a good idea; he sent kids there when their crimes were nonviolent; he sent kids there when their crimes were insignificant. It was as though he was determined to keep those private prisons filled with children at all times. According to news stories, offenses as small as swiping a jar of nutmeg or throwing a piece of steak at an adult were enough to merit a trip to the hoosegow.

Over the years Mr. Ciavarella racked up a truly awesome score: He sent kids to detention instead of other options at twice the state average, according to the New York Times. He tried a prodigious number of cases in which the accused child had no lawyer -- here, says the Times, the judge's numbers were fully 10 times the state average. And he did it fast, sometimes rendering a verdict "in the neighborhood of a minute-and-a-half to three minutes," according to the judge tasked with reconsidering Mr. Ciavarella's work. My question is, what have the Luzerne County judges done that deviates in the least from our American political traditions? These jurists have merely taken to heart the unvarying message of 40 years' worth of election results -- that more people, many more, need to go to jail -- and have come up with an entrepreneurial solution to the problem. We the people say it loud and clear every Election Day, in high-crime periods as well as peaceful stretches: More of our population needs to be behind bars. We love retribution so much we make hits of TV shows in which society's ne'er-do-wells come in for lectures not only by stern, righteous judges, but by tattooed, mulletted bounty hunters as well.

And over the years we have embraced all sorts of instruments ensuring that more people got locked up for longer and longer stretches: Three strikes laws, mandatory sentencing laws, zero-tolerance policies. Maybe they aren't "fair," but they've helped to make the U.S. number one in percentage of population in the clink -- in fact, as Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb pointed out in Parade magazine on Sunday, America has an amazing 25% of the world's prisoners. Taking this path has not always been easy. In the 1990s, when we started to realize that child crooks were "superpredators" who needed to go to prison along with everyone else, some were unwilling to act. Others stepped up. "We've got to quit coddling these violent kids like nothing is going on," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) in 1996. "Getting some of these do-gooder liberals to do what is right is real tough. We'd all like to rehabilitate these kids, but by gosh we are in a different age." But taking law and order to the next level in this different age required money, by gosh. Privatizing bits of the prison industry was a step in the right direction, but what we didn't have -- until recently -- were proper instruments for incentivizing the judiciary. That's what the "kids for cash" judges were apparently experimenting with. Today the do-gooders revile those efforts as "kickbacks," but before long we will see them as legitimate tools of justice. Our laws governing lobbying and campaign contributions have struck the right balance between the wishes of the people and those of private industry, so why are we so quick to doubt that the same great results can be achieved by putting the government's justice-dealing branch on the same market-based course? The public will get to see their neighbors' kids go to jail, the judge who sends them there will be able to afford a nice condo in Florida, and the company that satisfies the public's desire for punishment will make a handsome profit. It will be a win-win result for everyone. Write to


Anonymous said...

You bet your ass: Lock these bastards up!!

Anonymous said...

lock them up,make sure it is with the perverts who also abuse children, audit these bastards and sell off everything...

Anonymous said...

it is all about the cash contributions, if our elected officials are doing it, our lawyers judges will do it.......
it is the way they hide money and use it for their own personal use,

vote them all out!

Anonymous said...

This story actually makes me ill.

It is the most vile abuse of public trust that I have ever known.

Eliot Bernstein said...

In summation, this Writ of Motion to Compel, Compelling this Court and all those involved with Professional Legal Titles to “Freeze, put your hands up in the air and surrender”. Surrender until all applicable Law Enforcement and oversight Authorities summoned can evaluate your further right to continued involvement in these matters and can determine the degree of Your culpability of which You may become a Defendant in these matters. Freeze, as this is a Citizen’s Arrest and take no further action that Violates JC, ACC, PORR and Law as required by JC, ACC, PORR and Law, for a period necessary for Authorities summoned to examine the alleged Violations of JC, ACC, PORR and Law.
“You [all Justices, Court Personnel, Law Firms, Lawyers and Public Office Officials involved in the Legal Disposition of this Lawsuit] have the right to remain silent. Anything You say [or put in Order or Motion or Pleading, etc. in this Lawsuit] can and will be used against You in a court of law [a conflict free court]…Do You understand these rights?” This reading of Miranda is not a joke but more a Citizen’s Arrest notification that action on Your part forward without the summoned oversight Authorities and Law Enforcement approval of Your actions thus far and continuation going forward will be met with further CRIMINAL AND CIVIL charges against You. ANY ACTION taken prior to such time will incur filing of criminal charges against You with all appropriate authorities. Charges will include US Code Title 18 Obstruction charges, RICO charges and more, as defined herein and in the Amended Complaint and it would be best if YOU TURN YOURSELF IN TO AUTHORITIES versus forcing further rights under a Citizen’s Arrest to Force You into custody.

Eliot Bernstein said...

I remind this Court, which acts outside its own Rules, as if Above the Law, of the all too recent “Judges’ Trial ” of the infamous Nuremberg Trials. Proving that no one is Above the Law, not Justices, not Lawyers, nor Presidents or Deciders and that while power may corrupt and perverse those that control law at times, when the Long Arm of the Law regains its reach, the Guilty will be Tried despite their Titles and perceived Entitlement. Changing laws in order to commit crimes by those entrusted to uphold the sanctity of Law is not a defense that holds up well in a fair and impartial courtroom. Once Law and Order was re-established, the NAZI Party crushed and their delusional grandeur deflated, the Judges Trial tried the NAZI justices and lawyers who changed Law to allow Torture, Death Camps and Theft of Personal Properties, all eventually convicted in US Courts acting in Germany for the War Crimes, including for the Abuse and Misuse of Law. Above the Law while deluded in grandeur from sick Abuse of Power, yet in the end sentenced to life imprisonment for their crimes and forever stamped into history as Nazi war criminals. Eventually Justice will return to This Court and those guilty of misusing Law for personal gain to the disadvantage of citizens tried and convicted too.

Eliot Bernstein, Mad Inventor said...

The Judges' Trial (or the Justice Trial, or, officially, The United States of America vs. Josef Altstötter, et al.) was the third of the twelve trials for war crimes the U.S. authorities held in their occupation zone in Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).

The defendants in this case were 16 German jurists and lawyers. Nine had been officials of the Reich Ministry of Justice, the others were prosecutors and judges of the Special Courts and People's Courts of Nazi Germany. They were—amongst other charges—held responsible for implementing and furthering the Nazi "racial purity" program through the eugenic and racial laws.

The judges in this case, heard before Military Tribunal III, were Carrington T. Marshall (presiding judge), former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, James T. Brand from Oregon, Mallory B. Blair from Texas, and Justin Woodward Harding as an alternate judge. Marshall had to retire due to illness on June 19, 1947, at which point Brand became president and Harding a full member of the tribunal. The Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution was Telford Taylor; his deputy was Charles M. LaFollette. The indictment was presented on January 4, 1947; the trial lasted from March 5 to December 4, 1947. Ten of the defendants were found guilty; four received sentences for lifetime imprisonment, the rest prison sentences of varying lengths.

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