VIDEO: Penn. Judges Plead Guilty to Taking Bribes in Return for Placing Youths in Privately Owned Jails
Update: Video from Democracy Now below.
An unprecedented case of judicial corruption is unfolding in Pennsylvania. Several hundred families have filed a class-action lawsuit against two former judges who have pleaded guilty to taking bribes in return for placing youths in privately owned jails. Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are said to have received $2.6 million for ensuring juvenile suspects were jailed in prisons operated by the companies PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care. Some of the youths were jailed over the objections of their probation officers. An estimated 5,000 juveniles have been sentenced by Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2002. We speak to two youths sentenced by Ciavarella and to Bob Schwartz of the Juvenile Law Center.
In addition to jailing the youths, the judges also admitted to helping “facilitate” the construction of private jails. The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Martin C. Carlson, unveiled the charges last month.
On Thursday, Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan entered guilty pleas on charges of wire fraud and income tax fraud. They”re currently free on a one million dollar bail bond pending sentencing. Their plea agreements call for jail sentences of more than seven years. No charges have been filed against the private prisons that paid the bribes.
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has appointed an outside judge review all the cases tried by Ciavarella and Conahan. But the case has prompted calls for broader reforms of the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
We are joined now by two of the thousand of youths jailed by the corrupt judges. On the line from the town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is eighteen-year old Jamie Quinn. She spent more than eleven months in a privately-run juvenile prison camp after being sentenced by Judge Mark Ciavarella as a first-time offender.
And also on the line with us from the nearby town of Wilkes-Barre is twenty-two year old Kurt Kruger. Another first-time offender, he spent more than four months in a privately-run juvenile prison camp after also being sentenced by Ciavarella.
And joining us from a studio in Philadelphia is Bob Schwartz. He is a co-founder and Executive Director of the Juvenile Law Center, which helped expose the corrupt judges and is now involved in the class-action suit brought on behalf of the jailed youths’ families.
We asked PA Child Care—the main private jail company linked to the bribes—to come on the broadcast. We were directed to an attorney who did not respond to our request.
Bob Schwartz, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Juvenile Law Center, which helped expose the corrupt judges and is now involved in the class-action suit brought on behalf of the jailed youths’ families.
Jamie Quinn, spent more than eleven months in a privately run juvenile prison camp after being sentenced by Judge Mark Ciavarella.
Kurt Kruger, spent more than four months in a privately run juvenile prison camp after being sentenced by Judge Mark Ciavarella.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row prisoner in Pennsylvania reading his commentary “With Judges Like These” (Prison Radio Project)