New Film Documents Juvenile Justice Scandal

A feature-length film, five years in the making, Kids for Cash, produced and directed by Oscar-winner Robert May (Fog of War, 2003), documents the Pennsylvania scandal in which two juvenile court judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, received nearly three million dollars in bribes from the builders and owners of privately funded “for profit” detention facilities to funnel thousands of children to them under the guise of a “zero-tolerance” policy.

The film, which premiered in Philadelphia in early February, is now in nationwide distribution and has received favorable reviews from critics.

Rarely are judges criticized for being “too tough” on any type of crime. Few criticized the judges here even when they sentenced juveniles to detention camps and facilities for such trivial offenses as posting false social network pages, parodying their school administrators, or driving a parent’s car over a curb. According to Robert Schwartz of the Philadelphia Juvenile Law Center, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, probation officers and the private bar all failed miserably to do anything to question the sentences.

The scandal made headlines when the bribes were revealed in 2009. Conahan pleaded guilty in July, 2010, to racketeering and was sentenced to 17 ½ years. A jury convicted Ciaverella in February, 2011 on racketeering and criminal conspiracy charges.  He was sentenced to 28 years in prison. In October of 2013, the private companies owning the detention facilities agreed to settle a civil lawsuit for 2.5 million dollars.

The film raises serious questions about the so-called “zero tolerance” policies adopted by school administrators and courts in the wake of Columbine, the role of the “for profit” prison industry, and the failure of the entire judicial system to act as any sort of check on two corrupt judges.

By Jay Tiftickjian Law Firm
Denver DUI Attorneys
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