Two ex-judges, in Pennsylvania, have been ordered to give back $200 million to hundreds of individuals they victimized. This comes after they put together a plan to send kids to for-profit jails in order to receive kickbacks.
$106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages were awarded to close to 300 people in a lawsuit against Luzerne County judges. The presiding judge noted that the plaintiffs are “the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions.”
Mark Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, closed down a county-based juvenile detention center and took $2.8 million in illegal funds from the builder and co-owner of the two for-profit facilities. Ciavarella ruled over the juvenile court and ensured that his zero-tolerance policy would cause many kids to be sent to PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.
Ciavarella sent children as young as 8 to detention. Most of them were first-time offenders. They were said to be delinquent for petty theft, jaywalking, truancy, smoking at school, and other small offenses. Many of those teens were shackled, handcuffed, and taken away without saying anything to their relatives or defending themselves.
In total, 4,000 juvenile convictions were dismissed, that included cases involving, 2,300 children.
Ciavarella was sentence to 28 years in prison. In 2020, Conahan was released to home confinement. This was because of the Coronavirus pandemic, after being given more than 17 years in prison. He has six years left to complete.
The amount awarded only went to those plaintiffs who took part in the proceedings.