February 12, 2009

Evil lurked in Luzerne County

Something scary was happening in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. A kid who had never been in trouble would show up in juvenile court for writing a prank note or having drug paraphernalia and -- BOOM -- he would disappear.

Kids were locked up for months at a time even when probation officers recommended against it. Youth advocates complained, but no one listened.

Now, everyone knows why. Two of the judges were running a scheme in which they shunted kids to private jails in exchange for at least $2.6 million in kickbacks. In what the media are calling "one of the most stunning cases of judicial corruption on record," one of the two bad judges actually shut down the county juvenile hall so kids would have to go to PA Child Care LLC, which owned him.

A senior judge from a neighboring county will have the laborious task of going through all cases handled by the judges for the past six years, to "identify the affected juveniles and rectify the situation as fairly and swiftly as possible."

A first step in rectifying the situation -- or at least making the wronged kids feel a bit better about the world -- might be to lock up the offenders. But after the judges pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to tax charges, they were allowed to remain free pending sentencing.

Too bad they didn't afford that same courtesy to the youngsters who came before them.

Photo credit: "The Fog" by Canon in 2D (Creative Commons license)

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