Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

VIDEO: Penn. Judges Plead Guilty to Taking Bribes in Return for Placing Youths in Privately Owned Jails

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on February 17, 2009

Update: Video from Democracy Now below.

Democracy Now

prison_incAn 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)

WATCH VIDEOS HERE

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  1. William said, on February 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)

    THIS PETITION SEEKS TO ABOLISH ALL PRIVATE PRISONS IN THE UNITED STATES, (or any place subject to its jurisdiction)

    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.
    We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

    Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

    Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

    John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

    There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
    It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.

    Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

    The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
    These new slave plantations are not the answer!

    For more information please visit: http://www.npsctapp.blogsppot.com or email: williamthomas@exconciliation.com
    To sign the petition please visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/gufree2/petition.html

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

    William Thomas
    National Community Outreach Facilitator
    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
    P.O. Box 156423
    San Francisco, California 94115


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