Kids for cash: Can you trust judges/system to discipline fairly?

This Pennsylvania “kids for cash” case is just making my heart hurt. I am literally crying reading the story. If you didn’t see the story, here is the gist of it:

From ABC News:

“Prosecutors say former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella used children as pawns, locking them up unjustly in a plot to get rich. Ciavarella is accused of taking nearly $1 million in kickbacks from owners of private detention centers in exchange for placing juvenile defendants at their facilities, often for minor crimes. Ciavarella claims that the payment he received from a developer of the PA Child Care facility was legal and denies that he ever incarcerated kids for money. ”…

“Ciavarella, 61, was found guilty of 12 out of 39 charges on Friday, including racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, in connection with the nearly $1 million payment from Robert Mericle, the developer of the PA Child Care center. He plans to appeal. Ciavarella was acquitted on charges of bribery and extortion in relation to additional payments from the center’s builder and owner.”

“Families complain of Ciavarella’s rapid-fire brand of justice and trials that lasted only minutes with even first-time offenders sent to detention centers.”

“In one reported case, Ciavarella sentenced a child to two years for joyriding in his mom’s car. In another, he sentenced a college-bound high school girl to three months in juvenile detention for creating a website that made fun of her assistant principal. Some of the kids he ordered locked up were as young as 10.”

One mom justifiably went crazy on the former judge as he left the building (I am trying to link up the video now. Hopefully can get it up soon.). “Sandy Fonzo’s son son Edward Kenzakoski was sentenced by Ciavarella to juvenile detention in 2003 for possession of drug paraphernalia. Fonzo said her 17-year-old son had no prior record when he landed in Ciavarella’s courtroom. She claims Kenzakoski never recovered from the months he served behind bars and years later, at 23, he killed himself. ”

” ‘Do you remember me? Do you remember me? Do you remember my son? He was an all-star wrestler and he’s gone,’ Fonzo screamed to Ciavarella as he exited the courthouse Friday.”

The mom had expected the judge to be carted off in handcuffs as he often did to the juveniles he sentenced.  However he remained free until sentencing. He is expected to get a minimum of 12 years.

It is so hard as a parent when your child does something wrong. You know they have to punished, sometimes by you, sometimes by the school, and sometimes in court. And you hope that your child will be disciplined fairly. This literally makes me sick that these defenseless children and teenagers were sentenced inappropriately and suffered for more than their “crimes” warranted.

(Marsha Levick, deputy director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, said the number of children going into placement (jails) from Luzerne County were two to three times higher than other counties!)

I don’t understand why it wasn’t noticed sooner. Why didn’t his bosses think anything about his “placement” rate? You know DA’s conviction rates are looked at. You would think judges’ penalties would be examine too.

What do you think of the case? How can you know your kids are being disciplined fairly (kids do make mistakes!)? What do you make of the mom lashing out? What would you do if you child had been unfairly sentenced?

(A 12-year-old girl is missing in Gwinnett County. I wanted to make sure everyone looked at her photos and read the story. Keep your eyes open for her!)

25 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJCMOMania, ajcparenting. ajcparenting said: AJC's Momania blog: Kids for cash: Can you trust judges/system to discipline fairly? http://bit.ly/hkT70x [...]

catlady

February 22nd, 2011
7:27 am

I believe I heard about this when the investigation first came out. Glad he got some jail time out of it. Will he live to be paroled?

Theresa, while I think most judges try to be fair, and most don’t have ties like this, it is naive to think that such doesn’t happen. ALL people can be wicked and all are greedy in one way or another. Things like this do happen, to lesser degrees, in our country. We are not the paragon of virtue we claim to be.

I hope those affected can speak out at his parole hearing when it comes around.

MomOf2Girls

February 22nd, 2011
7:54 am

Theresa – regarding the 12-year-old girl. I just read the article. The description of the girl does not match the picture at all – can you please follow up with this? It says she has red hair, in the picture it is brown. It also says she is 4 feet tall and 95 pounds. If this were true, she would be a lot fatter than she looks in the picture. I know what I’m talking about here – my younger is 4′1″ and weighs 49 lbs, and my older is 4′11″ and weighs 92 pounds.

ifthereisagod!

February 22nd, 2011
8:18 am

Ed D

February 22nd, 2011
9:04 am

This is not an isolated case. The entire prison industrial complex it built on prison for profit. Across this nation. Corrections budgets increasing while they are cutting money for schools and other services. It is now profitable to make you a criminal and you can bet they will find a way to make you a criminal. The outrage should not just be directed at this, one case, but at the system itself. Think.. WAR ON DRUGS. Cannabis cures the sick, could end the need to import oil and could save our economy. But the prison industrial complex is clearly in control and look at all the lies, death and destruction prohibition has caused. When are you going to just say no to corrupt government? End prison for profit. End Prohibition.

FCM

February 22nd, 2011
9:05 am

TWG how about the mom with the son who has a 1.22 GPA and the sign?

theresa

February 22nd, 2011
9:17 am

fcm I have it posted for around 12:30 today. Sorry I didn’t hir these yestwrday. I was out all day. So playing catch up on topics today.

Cammi317

February 22nd, 2011
9:39 am

There was a Law & Order episode based on this a couple of years ago. I know they pull stuff from the headlines a lot, but did not realize that this one was an actual reality. So sad….

Cammi317

February 22nd, 2011
9:43 am

I was wondering the same thing about the picture of the 12 y/o. She is clearly NOT a red-head. When I first read the article about the son with the sign, I got a good laugh initially. Then I had to point out to others that there is probably something much deeper going on with the child that needs to be examined.

Stacey

February 22nd, 2011
9:44 am

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.

FYI…”Get Schooled” did a blog yesterday on the 1.22 GPA and sign for punishment.

JOD

February 22nd, 2011
9:51 am

I don’t know much about the juvenile justic system, but is there an appeals process where the sentence is reviewed by another judge? Seems like any rational person would question (and perhaps overturn) a sentence at a detention center for a first-offender teen stealing a candy bar.

That being said, I’ll cheat on the 1.22 GPA topic…good for her. It sounds like she actually cares (although I’d be interested to understand how it got so bad). It figures that she can’t win either way. Either he drops out (or ‘graduates’ with awful grades) and can’t get a job – which everyone would blame her for – or she gets creative with disciplining him and is called a monster by molly-coddling meddlers (say that 3x fast!). She didn’t hurt or mistreat him – maybe it’s exactly what he needed.

JOD

February 22nd, 2011
9:52 am

*sigh* – justice system…need caffeine.

FCM

February 22nd, 2011
9:54 am

I just was hoping we would discuss it. As to this topic…sounds like the guy will get what he deserves. I just don’t see how parents can prevent it from happening. It is a matter for the justice dept.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

February 22nd, 2011
10:09 am

I passed along a note to the editors on the girls photo and description — i know the photo is the same on other news sites — so maybe just an old photo -

Spacey

February 22nd, 2011
10:15 am

Cobb County has a missing 12 year old boy too! I’ll try to get a link up soon.

The picture is a couple of years old on the girl and Cobb county boy too.
When I called to inquire on the age in the picture, my contact mused on the conversation…
He says we have this same discussion on the picture for every missing child.
More often than not, when a child goes missing, no one has a recent picture of him or her.
In my experience, the lack of pictures and the runaway children are related.

Spacey

February 22nd, 2011
10:18 am

Here is a link to an AJC story.
Theresa, if I send you the picture, can you post it?

http://www.ajc.com/news/cobb/cobb-police-seek-missing-848434.html

Spacey

February 22nd, 2011
10:39 am

On topic…
Most people do not realize that there are places you can go to report judicial misconduct.
In Georgia, there is a Judicial Qualifications Commission. They investigate Judges and have recently taken action against a few. More people need to hold our officials accountable.

Spacey

February 22nd, 2011
10:51 am

Cobb County boy has been found. He is okay.
Gwinnett is still looking for the girl.

Cammi317

February 22nd, 2011
11:55 am

I cannot imagine not having a recent photo of my child! We don’t take “family portraits” as often anymore, but we still have school photos, vacation photos, random shots around the house, etc. Yeesh! Why would they have died a 12 y/o’s hair red? Why was she left in a parking lot to peddle flowers? There is something wrong with this story.

MomOf2Girls

February 22nd, 2011
12:06 pm

It’s not the hair color so much that tweaked my antenna – it’s the height / weight thing. 4 feet tall and 92 pounds sounds way off. My 10 year old, who is rather short for her age, is taller than this, and my 14 year old is almost 5 feet and weighs less than this girl. Either the girl is very short and incredibly overweight, which seems highly unlikely given the picture (even if it’s 2 years old), or the height or weight is very wrong (my vote is for the height).

Cammi317

February 22nd, 2011
12:25 pm

You’re right, it’s more than likely 5 feet 1 inch as opposed to 4 feet.

Kate

February 22nd, 2011
12:30 pm

I agree with Cammi317 and Momof2girls. All we have to go on is an outdated photo, an inaccurate description and an uncle’s vague explanation of how and when she went missing. Something is not right here. And where is the rest of this girl’s family?

Spacey

February 22nd, 2011
12:46 pm

@Cammi317: In the news, We report on people all the time without a recent picture of their children (or Grandparents). Sometimes the kids are 10 and the last time someone took a picture was 5 years ago.
Or, they have to get Grandma on the phone to come over. She is the only one that held on to the picture from 5 years ago.
I cannot imagine it either! We have more photos and videos than I have albums at home.

Spacey

February 22nd, 2011
12:53 pm

Gwinnett County says it is unknown exactlly how she left. Therefore, they are treating her situation as a kidnapping.
She dyed her hair red.

Mom of older kids

February 22nd, 2011
4:30 pm

I had the police out at my house the other night for my son. I used to hope that a trip to jail might “scare him straight”. He gives the police his scripted sob story and they buy it every time. One day he will really hurt me ( if not kill me) and maybe the “justice system” will help me.