Two former Pennsylvania judges who were convicted of sending juveniles to for-profit prisons in exchange for kickbacks have been ordered to pay more than $200 million to nearly 300 victims.
Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.8 million from the co-owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care and promised to send children convicted of crimes in juvenile court to the two facilities.
After a county-run juvenile detention facility was closed down, Ciavarella sent children as young as eight to the detention centers. Many of the kids who ended up there were first-time offenders convicted of minor infractions such as jaywalking and truancy.
“Ciavarella and Conahan abandoned their oath and breached the public trust,” U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner wrote. “Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom were suffering from emotional issues and mental health concerns.”
After reviewing all of the cases presided over by Ciavarella and Conahan, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out 4,000 convictions involving more than 2,300 kids.
Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in jail. He is serving his prison term in Kentucky, and the 72-year-old will be eligible for release in 2035. Conahan was sentenced to more than 17 years behind bars. However, he was released to home confinement in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.