In receiving vigorous sentences for minor violations committed either

the documentary titled, Kids for Cash,
there is direct controversy concerning whether or not juveniles were receiving vigorous
sentences for minor violations committed either on school property or within
the community. Parents were faced with witnessing their child being prosecuted
and arrested for minor infractions, such as, throwing a punch in school, creating
a fake Myspace page, or cursing at another student’s mother. To make matters
worse, Luzerne County judge
Mark Ciavarella was the leading cause behind this scandal as he implemented
tough sentences in return for financial kickbacks. Ciavarella enforced the
rules like any other judge; however, he implemented harsh punishments on
adolescent children who made slight mistakes in reform to abolish any type of misbehavior
from happening in Luzerne County. Ciavarella’s grand decision would end up
reckoning families lives in a domino effect in this juvenile corruption scandal
from 2003-2008.                                                                              

adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward juvenile crime in the schools, which met
with the approval of school authorities and the community, and routinely failed
to properly effectuate juveniles’ right to counsel, resulting in a
disproportionately high detention rate compared to the rest of the state (Gray,
2010). Ciavarella strategically partnered with his colleague, judge Michael
Conahan, in an ultimate plot to receive more than two million dollars in bribes
and kickbacks from the
builder and co-owner of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention
centers. The scandal accelerated rapidly as Ciavarella placed these children on
the stand in a court of law wavering their rights to effectively obtain a
lawyer and receive a fair trial. Specifically, the problem most of these
children encountered was that they never encountered a life changing experience
like this before, which meant when Ciavarella commanded them to sign documents,
they blatantly signed them hoping that this disaster would be resolved in the
future guaranteeing their liberty. Unfortunately, the miscommunication and
misguidance embedded them deeper into the juvenile criminal justice system as
they unintentionally waivered their rights away to receive a lawyer. It’s apparent that
Ciavarella effectively enforced the law within Luzerne County compared to the
rest of the state of Pennsylvania; however, he conducted his job in a way that
selfishly benefited himself by obtaining cash illicitly.                                                                                                                                     Judge Ciavarella included judges,
prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and even parents in this regime to
promote this belief of a “zero tolerance” attitude in Luzerne County. This
superior attitude soon dominated educational systems with probation officers having
their own office within the school district to strictly monitor the behavior
and attitudes of the children at all times. Corruption flourished the community
as law enforcement officers intentionally started to place drug paraphernalia through
bribery. For example, Kenzakoski was diagnosed with ADD
before he was 10 and drinking by 14, and his parents were so worried about him
that his father developed a plan to scare him straight. Along
with two police officer buddies, Kenzakoski’s father planted a marijuana pipe
in the boy’s truck, hoping he would be arrested and turned around after a
confrontation with the authorities (Getlen, 2014). Shortly after, Kenzakowski
was incarcerated as Ciavarella placed him behind bars without any detection of
corruption being witnessed by the community.                                                                             In order to
ensure integrity, I believe that there should have been sting operations
implemented on figures of high authority within the criminal justice system,
rather than on civilians that allegedly cost them their future as juveniles. By
promoting these tactics, no only would these individuals be simmered out of
their profession due to their corruption and lack of integrity, but this would
have been a prime example that every profession has its percentage of
individuals that aren’t suitable for the job. This ultimately makes the police
officers, judges, prosecutors, and contractors that pushed this effort of “kids
for cash” into full affect look like the real criminals, instead of sending
juveniles to jail, that didn’t even commit a lucrative offense to society. These
figures could have owned up responsibly through communication and told their
superior that such actions were going on behind doors that the public doesn’t
witness. Instead, after neglecting the issue and being persuaded to be part of
this scheme, these figures that were once looked up to as role models were
intentionally participating in placing these juveniles behind bars in order to
seek financial benefits with Ciavarella paving the way.                                              Prosecutors were persuaded under
jurisdiction of Ciavarella leaving no margin for error to allow these kids the
potential for a fair trial. The civilians of Luzerne County adopted Ciavarella’s
philosophy as a type of deterrence that would benefit the community. As the
numbers of children on trial for punishment exponentially multiplied, the
imbalance of justice started to be questioned from outside sources. For
example, Hillary Transue was sent away in 2007 for
creating a MySpace page about her vice principal. She was released three weeks
later after the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center intervened and
ultimately helped get thousands of Ciavarella’s juvenile convictions expunged
because the children didn’t have lawyers representing them (Schwartz, 2008). This
meaningless prank Hillary committed as an adolescent prank shocked her mother
as to why her daughter would receive a criminal sentence. There was no physical
harm made towards the principal by Hillary except the creation of a fictitious
account mimicking her principle as any other child would.                           Ciavarella
didn’t find any humor in Hillary’s actions and teamed up with judges and
prosecutors, just like any other juvenile case to reprimand her in such a way
that it would cost Hillary her future. Hillary’s mother was forced to sign
“legal documents” provided by the court under Ciavarella’s discretion, wavering
her rights to a fair trial by excusing the presence of a lawyer. Therefore,
Hillary was destined for failure without legal representation, translating to
another juvenile statistic of Ciavarella in return for a financial
compensation. If Hillary were my daughter I wouldn’t trust going about this
process alone if my loved one was previously innocent and a presently a criminal
today due to Ciavarella’s misjudgment of tolerating mistakes made by juveniles.
I would seek outside help and find the best lawyer possible before I even read
or signed any documentation. I cannot entirely blame Hillary’s mother because
she thought that by signing the document, that this minor offense would vanish
as this piece of documentation guaranteed Hillary her liberty through their
cooperation. However, this waivered her right to council and justified that the
criminal justice system could legally take advantage of Hillary in any way
possible. With Ciavarella’s discretion as a judge, he placed her behind bars in
one of his malnourished facilities like any other of his victims.               Amanda was another victim of
Ciavarella’s grand scheme as she was sentenced to five years in the juvenile
justice system for acting out on school property. Specifically, she was
arrested and charged with aggravated assault as she fought a girl in school
during gym class. This experience had a tragic effect on Amanda as she was
robbed the opportunity to learn and grow from the age of fourteen as she was
behind bars facing depression with guilt of a convict. However, this incident
should have never surpassed the administrative perspective within the
educational system as this fight wasn’t great enough to be a criminal
punishment. Ciavarella didn’t tolerate and form of violence and sentenced
Amanda to confinement as she could think long and hard for assaulting the other
girl. With a lack composure, Amanda was faced with PTSD after weeping in
remorse for years in hope that one-day things would

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work out for herself. Her family’s
opportunity to make memories with Amanda were torn with despair as she wasn’t
present for five years. As a whole, Amanda and her family suffered immensely as
they were separated for a long period of time due to Ciavarella’s demeanor in
tolerating crime, which devastated the community in a greater note as parents
were losing their children to the juvenile justice system. The community tried
to combat this evil sorcery as justice was not being served with the full
integrity it was meant to abide by. The changes
that need to be made to the juvenile justice system are the implementation of less
strict laws because the law has to take into consideration that children under
the age of eighteen are still juveniles destined to make mistakes. These minor
infractions should not cost them their future over simple judgements; however,
there should be programs like community service and workshops to unify these
individuals into adults.                                                                                       Overall, Ciavarella was part of one
of the most subliminal financial schemes in the nation as he sentenced children
to juvenile detention facilities in return for cash. This scam damaged the
community of Luzerne County as it placed children behind bars for committing
minor violations. Ciavarella denied ever trading “kids for cash” in the
community, lacking his ability to be a stable role model as a judge with
integrity. He was sentenced to twenty-eight years
in prison and was mandated to pay $965,000 back in restitution.










Getlen, L. (2014). Corrupt ‘Kids for Cash’ judge ruined more
than 2,000 lives.

Gray, C. (2010). Report and recommendations issued in
“kids for cash” scandal.           Judicature, 93(6),

Schwartz, R. (2008). Juvenile Law Center to investigate
irregularities in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne          County
juvenile court.


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