Matthew, Angelia, and Charlie are just three children among the thousands who appeared in Ciavarella s courtroom between 2003 and 2008 and were sent away often with no attorney present and after only cursory hearings to a detention facility in which, it later came to light, Ciavarella had a personal financial stake. As Kids for Cash reveals, this miscarriage of justice underscores a multitude of problems with our juvenile justice system, which too often criminalizes standard adolescent behavior, treats adolescents more harshly than if they were adults, and denies them their most fundamental constitutional rights.
William Ecenbarger, a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award winning investigative journalist who covered the case for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now gives us the first book-length account of this shocking story. In the tradition of true-crime legal thrillers from The Executioner s Song to A Civil Action, Ecenbarger exposes a deeply corrupt and broken system that ruined the lives of many children and ultimately led to the judge s conviction on charges of racketeering, fraud, tax violations, money laundering, extortion, and bribery. Fastidiously researched and utterly propulsive, Kids for Cash takes us deep inside a profoundly flawed legal system, revealing the twisted and haunting realities of America s juvenile justice system.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-08-27
- Reviewer: Staff
Pulitzer-winning journalist Ecenbarger spares no detail in recounting how two rural Pennsylvania judges' schemed to incarcerate thousands of kids in a privately owned juvenile detention center in exchange for millions in kickbacks. In famously corrupt Luzerne County, juvenile court judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan lobbied for the building of a new juvenile detention center. From 2003 to 2008, Ciavarella then funneled thousands of kids—including nonviolent and first-time offenders—into the new center. In return both he and Conahan were receiving millions of carefully laundered dollars. More troubling was the system's abuse of the children (some as young as 11). Local newspaper reports led to state and federal investigations, and the judges were convicted of racketeering. Ecenbarger lays out the details of the case, emphasizing the very human element of the children who were the victims. Agent: Anita Bartholomew. (Nov.)