Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced for Cash for Convictions Illustrates What’s Wrong with Privatization

Judge Ruined Thousands of Lives for Cash from Private Detention Center

Pennsylvania has privatized some of its juvenile detention facilities.  In order to get a “full house” the owner/operator of one facility found an easy way to insure he was maximizing profit.  He paid a judge to convict thousand of youths and sentence them to his detention center, where he then collected fees from the government.

Associated Press
Mark A. Ciavarella Jr.

The case against the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., who presided in Luzerne County, drew national attention for what legal experts say is a dangerous gap in the juvenile justice systems of many states — children appearing in court without lawyers.

Mr. Ciavarella was convicted and just sentenced to what is hoped to be a life sentence

There is no parole in the federal system, so U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik's 28-year sentence will likely keep Mr. Ciavarella behind bars until he is 89.

Mr. Ciavarella’s attorney supported his client, that what attorney’s do, but the attorney went way too far.

William Ruzzo, Mr. Ciavarella's lawyer, called the sentence for his client "much too harsh," noting that it amounted to a life sentence. "This was a nonviolent offense. I've had people convicted of murder who received as little as a six-to-12-year sentence," he said, adding that he plans to appeal the conviction

This “non-violent” offense may have partially or totally destroyed the lives of over 4,000 to 6,000 young people, whose convictions in Mr. Ciavarella’s court have been expunged.

Few of the young people had lawyers, a chronic problem that legal scholars say makes guilty pleas more likely, saddling them with criminal records. The state has since expunged more than 6,000 records of youths Mr. Ciavarella sentenced, some for crimes as small as stealing a jar of nutmeg.

But the fact that he is on trial at all feels like a triumph to Hillary Transue, whom he sentenced to three months for a spoof Web page mocking an assistant principal at her high school in 2007.

No, the sentence is not “much to harsh”.  The Judge deserves two life sentences, one for this life, one for the life in the hereafter.

The case illustrates  the problem with governments saving money by privatizing state services. In Arizona, the new harsh illegal immigration laws were heavily pushed by corporations that owned private detention centers that would house detainees arrested under the law.  The practice of private prisons induces incentives into the system for abuses like this, really tragic abuses when they involve young people. 

Does anyone think this case is the only one of its kind?  It may be the only one if its kind to be found out.

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