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Friday, February 13, 2009

Judges Sent Juveniles to Prison Receive $2.6 million in Head Count Kickbacks

I have known for some time that certain judges were getting kickbacks for every head they sent to prison. I just didn’t have the proof, until now.

The juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses... Wilkes-Barre judges accused of jailing kids for cash.

Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. Both pled guilty to corruption charges. Ironically, the company has been charged with no wrongdoing, but rather claims itself to be the victim of extortion.

The report says that Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure tens of millions of dollars in contracts with Luzerne County, most of which were dependent on how many juveniles were locked up in their facilities. PA Child Care landed a 20-year agreement worth an estimated $58 million. The contract was later canceled and described as being "too exorbitant", but not before the two judges became rich feeding the Prison Industrial machine with naive juvenile offenders, many of whom were first time offenders, and many more burdened with exaggerated charges for minor offenses.

This is the classic school-to-prison pipeline for the sake of profit and kickbacks.

Although I scream to the high heavens, some people still do not believe the juvenile justice system can operate like this. It must be an abortion, they think. But we have seen instance upon instances, cases like Kurt Kruger, a teenager charged as a lookout for a friend who stole $200 worth of DVD. And, a 14-year old Paris, Texas juvenile charged with assault on a public servant for barging into the school before permitted, and sentenced up to 7 years of her life. And, a schoolyard fight in Jena, Louisiana, that could netted six black youth up to 80 years. And, in the state of Georgia, a 17-year old has consensual sex with a 15-year old and wound up sentenced to 10 years.

Harsh punishment is not the word. It is a rash motive for locking up some many juveniles for such minor offenses. It is a cash motive that banked the corrupt judges $2.6 million. Justice is bought and sold on the streets like merchandise.

When a man has been on the crooked side of the law, he knows which judges are on the take. He knows which cops will contaminate the crime scene and which will fabricate the evidence. He knows which crooked lawyer will put his feet on the ground and get the case dismissed.

Half the story above has never been told.

Last year, Conahan felt compelled to hold a news conference to answer allegations raised against him in a federal drug trial. A witness had claimed that Conahan introduced him to a drug dealer. And, an attorney referred to Conahan as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the case. But Conahan denied the allegations, which he said were made by people seeking favor of prosecutors. Therefore, he was never charged by police nor reprimanded by the state’s judicial conduct board.

These things come as no surprise to me. Juveniles get in trouble and find themselves in front of a judge who sees nothing but dollar signs hanging over their heads. And, no matter how many warnings I give them, juveniles will get involved in drugs, not knowing that there is a crooked judge somewhere who knows their deed and identity, and will probably be sitting on the bench when the court serves them up as a turkeys.

In the above case, kids were hailed before the judges, without lawyers, contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel. The constitution is worthless to a judge on the take.

The Ciavarella and Conahan court was a railroad system. And, people want to ask: Why are so many young people in prison?

It looks like due process of law and smells like justice. But it does not pass the acid test. By the same code and practice, the innocent is convicted and wrongfully sent to prison. Dallas County has exonerated 19 inmates false accused, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned. A Texas Tech college student named Timothy Cole was exonerated posthumously. And, yet the beat goes on like business as usual in the courthouse, and nobody knows the better.

Private prison contractors and their corporate investors look for ever-increasing expansion of the detention system, as if there is no absolute maximum. Take for example the story of privateers going to a Texas town later nicknamed Prisonville because it “host to what’s probably the largest concentration of privatized jail facilities in the world.”

The town of is home to a privately run, 1,000-bed state prison; a county-run, 96-bed jail with space for federal inmates; and a private, 500-bed federal jail. Not content with just $129 million in prison-related debt, the Willacy County Commissioners Court voted in 2007 to finance a $50.1 million, 1000-bed addition to the privately-run 2000-bed “Tent City” for immigrants.

The 3,600 prisoners, one-third of Raymondville’s population, who reside in this penal colony represent the heart of the area’s economy.

According to an article written about "Prisonville": Private prison corporations are a good place to put money – if you are interested in making good money from companies that imprison people for profit. As the two leading private prison firms like to tell investors, it’s a booming business these days not because crime rates are rising but because of the new opportunities in immigrant detention.

So it’s not surprising that Vanguard Group, one of the country’s largest mutual funds companies, puts its investors money into private prison firms, including the country’s two largest: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (originally incorporated as Wackenhut). Vanguard Group is also a major investor in Correctional Services Corporation.

Willacy County, Texas is the epicenter of the private prison phenomenon that is sweeping the country, fueled in recent years by the immigrant crackdown. Over the past three years, over 3,000 new “prison beds” have come on line in Raymondville, the county seat, as politicians and Texas developers have attempted to cash in on the federal government’s demand for prison space for detained immigrants. The largest operator is the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, although GEO Group also has prison operations in Raymondville.


  1. Eddie, you might want to write down this day - I am absolutely speechless, I don't even know what to say. If this isn't a 60 Minutes story, I don't know what is. Thank you for bringing attention to this story....deb

  2. Thank you for posting this. I have linked it and posted it on my Musing in Obama's America blog site. This is the most horrendous case of evil imaginable. It is appalling, and you have done an excellent job in writing about it. Thank you again.

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


    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: or email:
    To sign the petition please visit:


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

  4. This is so terrible. This is what happened to the "Hurricane" - he was criminalised as a child and ended up in prison for many years. It is shameful that this is still going on. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Thanks for the write-up, Eddie.

    It's good you're getting the word out there. This is very important information.

  6. What I cannot understand is this: In the privatization of prisons, who is paying? For instance, a similar evil occured some years back, in which youth were being committed to mental hospitals for trivial reasons ( fighting with parents, etc.) and this was for the insurance money, to make the hospital rich. But who is paying for these youth to go to prison? Of course it is evil beyond words, and you are quite right to post this, and I hope you continue to speak out. But if there are no state or federal funds, where do the profits come from???

  7. I have a son that was that was charged for armed robbery in Amherst Virginia. Him and 2 other boys.
    They didn't hurt anyone "Thank God". This was his 1st offense. The Judge sentence all three of them to 28 years, supended all except 18years. 18years with no perole. I had hired a lawyer, paid him 10,000.00. I found out that the lawyer and the Judge had it out for each other, plus the lawyer mislead me. I didn't know any better. But after the trial, I visit him at his office he told me that the Judge gave my son, and the other boys a long sentence for money. I didn't know what he was talking about, he said he couldn't give me anymore information. Of course as a mother I was determine to find out. By my surprise "GEO". The facility they are in is a GEO prison. It is very sad that they rather throw away our children's lives for money. When you are a parent and feel so helpless all you can do is pray, and cry wishing for some one to help solve this problem.

    Mrs. T