Critics: PA Juvenile Justice Reform Still Needed After Judge’s Conviction


A former Pennsylvania judge faces a prison term for his role in a $2.8 million scandal known as “cash for kids” after a jury convicted him of taking kickbacks from the developer of a private detention center, reports NPR. Critics of the state’s juvenile justice system say more reforms are still needed. Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia says kids routinely appeared in Judge Mark Ciavarella’s courtroom without defense lawyers and received draconian sentences for minor infractions. Many were led out of the courtroom in shackles.

On Friday, a jury in Scranton, Pa., convicted Ciavarella on 12 counts, including racketeering. They found him guilty of taking kickbacks from a developer who built two private detention centers in Pennsylvania, but acquitted him of charges that he took bribes in exchange for sending juveniles to detention. A Pennsylvania government commission conducted its own investigation of the scandal last year. Many courthouse employees told the commission they were afraid to speak up for fear of retribution. “There was a total collapse of the rule of law,” said Judge John Cleland, the commission’s chairman. His panel issued a report in May 2010 that included 44 specific recommendations for reform. So far, only a few have been adopted.

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