Judges paid millions to sentence teens

Sandy Fonzo, the mother of suicide victim Edward R. Kenzakoski III, confronts former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., as he leaves the federal courthouse in Scranton, Pa. (AP Photo)

Sandy Fonzo, the mother of suicide victim Edward R. Kenzakoski III, confronts former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., as he leaves the federal courthouse in Scranton, Pa. (AP Photo)

Love of money is the root of all evil, the Bible and a documentary debuting nationwide Friday tell us.

The film, “Kids for Cash,” details the lives of three teens sentenced by Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella, who was paid by a private juvenile detention company to keep facilities full.

If parents living in the poor area of Pennsylvania didn’t have the cash to pay for the detention, the kids were held longer — some for years — for “crimes” as trivial as stealing a single jar of nutmeg or writing “Vote for Michael Jackson” on stop signs.

For about seven years during the 2000s, Ciavarella sentenced thousands of kids to jail time for petty crimes, but one story from the film is particularly troubling.

Teenager Edward R. Kenzakoski III got in trouble after police “found” a bong in his car.

Kenzakoski, a big 17-year-old with a reputation for drinking, had never smoked marijuana. His father, Edward R. Kenzakoski Jr., worked with police to plant the bong so the judge, Ciavarella, could “scare” his son straight.

Instead of scaring Kenzakoski, the judge sentenced him to 30-days in juvenile detention.

The jail time seemed to send the acclaimed high school wrestler on a downward spiral. His friends said he began to think of suicide “every day.”

Edward R. Kenzakoski III, who ran afoul of the law multiple times after being framed by his dad, committed suicide in 2010.

Judge Mark Ciavarella didn’t act alone. Another Luzerne County judge, Michael Conahan, also agreed to sentence teens for kickbacks.

Conahan, who managed to defund the county-operated juvenile detention facility, promised he would send the for-profit company $1.3 million a year in “business.”

Together, the judges received $2.6 million in payments from two private juvenile detention facilities.

Ciavarella is serving a 28-year sentence in federal prison, Conohan 17.

I doubt they are housed in for-profit prisons.

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45 comments Add your comment

Samantha

February 26th, 2014
11:18 am

They should go straight to prison and be sued by everyone that was effected by this!

Samantha

February 26th, 2014
11:20 am

Prisons are for profit. All of them are. They make prisioners make license plates. That’s a multi-billion dollar industry in the USA and around the world. Prisoners don’t get one red cent in the state of Texas for their work. They also make prisoners make furniture and a lot of other things for free. That is a new form of slavery!

techdawg

February 26th, 2014
11:30 am

Unbelievable! If this is happening in one place, we can rest assured that it is happening in other places as well. Our country is going down hill quickly as character erodes. If the judges are doing this, all we are is a wealthy 3rd world country that will soon be like all other 3rd world countries. God help us all…

Good Grief

February 26th, 2014
11:39 am

The case highlighted involves a parent taking part in this “scared straight” scheme. SMH

SMHaLLS

February 26th, 2014
11:43 am

Black folks in this country tell you every single day the system is corrupt, and nothing is more apparent than the prison population disparity. But noooo, many of you bigots will come on here because of your sheer hatred for anything not White and proudly don your blinders and spew your “statistics” and other programming. The statistics make the point. The majority of those incarcerated are done so whereas their White counterparts typically receive some other intervention or let off altogether.

Well guess what? There is only so much of 13% total population you can sweep into the penal system before you must seek out new victims. Then we act all appalled and outraged when we see the image above, because suddenly there is a problem. Give me a break.

bigdoggie1

February 26th, 2014
11:47 am

SMHalls: You are so correct! It’s all part of the “Deep State!”

Andy

February 26th, 2014
11:57 am

Don’t break the law and you won’t go to a for profit prison. Seems pretty simple to me.

Richard

February 26th, 2014
12:02 pm

The Tea Party would like to block the federal oversight that eventually catches these corrupt state officials. A steady attack on regulations and oversight can be measured coming from the right wing. If allowed to run wild, think how bad it could get. The Tea Baggers are salivating at the potential profits and privileged lifestyles they could enjoy. Know the candidates and use your vote wisely.

Whatevs

February 26th, 2014
12:03 pm

Andy, you’re an idiot. The kid DIDN’T break the law. He was setup. Now what?

AtlSteve

February 26th, 2014
12:11 pm

Richard – Please provide links to proof of what you say. Specifically your first sentence.

GeoffDawg

February 26th, 2014
12:14 pm

Lol @ Richard-head.

CW Miller

February 26th, 2014
12:15 pm

The prisons need to be reserved for violent criminals alone, and other forms of consequences applied for non-violent crimes regardless of race. Some kind of limited freedoms plan, no bars or clubs, certainly don’t be caught further breaking the law, and other forms of incarceration that would allow non-violent criminals to rehabilitate and reform. Educate, relocate, etc…

Bogus

February 26th, 2014
12:23 pm

Wait, people are actually surprised?? Where have you all been? This has been going on forever and it is STILL going on right now in other states. Guess you don’t believe it until its written in a “news” article.

Catlady

February 26th, 2014
12:39 pm

That daddy who planted the bong in his kid’s car should have MANNED UP and PARENTED his kid, instead of expecting the police/taxpayers to do it!

Good Grief

February 26th, 2014
12:44 pm

Edward R. Kenzakoski III, who ran afoul of the law multiple times after being framed by his dad, committed suicide in 2010
=======================
So did daddy frame his son the one time, and then other crimes were commited purely by the kid?

@ Richard

February 26th, 2014
12:50 pm

You are so full of it. People like you have tried and failed to label the Tea Party as a racist organization, and now that that did not work … they are so big, powerful and corrupt that they are going to rule and take over the country? You are delusional, paranoid and way off topic. Thanks for the laugh though!

William Smith

February 26th, 2014
12:51 pm

The theory is that work must expand to reach needs for employees and cost. If you spend a large sum on the prison system you must fill up that prison. These judges are doing the actions needed to keep the system going. You must keep status quo at any cost. This relates also to the military as much as we spend we must find wars to keep this system status quo, The funny thing is to mention cutting budgets so as to stop these two our of control systems makes you un-American. The next time someone calls cutting of military spending un-American needs to listen to the farewell address of Dwight Eisenhower.

Willydoit?

February 26th, 2014
12:52 pm

Prisons are nothing more than “jobs programs”.
Non violent offenders serving life sentances for the “three strike law” is a sham to collect more money from the taxpayers.
Most violent offenders are already serving extended or life sentences.

George Mathis

February 26th, 2014
12:53 pm

Good Grief – Yes, the son seemed to get in fights. He was charged with assault after one of them. He was put back in the juvenile detention — another one the judges were being paid to fill — after being charged with simple assault in one of the fights. The dad was not involved in any of those incidents from what I’ve read.

Jeff Bramlett

February 26th, 2014
1:17 pm

I am usually anti-capital punishment, but for these two judges I would make an exception.

Hidden Agenda

February 26th, 2014
1:23 pm

More than a few folks have proposed that the only “just” justice system would be about RESTITUTION rather than RETRIBUTION as we have today. The purpose of punishment should be to make the victim “whole” again – to the extent that is possible. When there is a REAL crime (one with a victim), there is a loss. In some cases it is strictly financial, in some cases there is a violation of their body (injury, rape, etc.) and in some cases there is the taking of a life (which certainly has a financial/emotional impact on the survivors). In any case, there is the potential and need for restitution to the victim (or family) to compensate them for the loss. However in our current society, financial accountability to the victim takes a back seat to the state getting its pound of flesh from the perpetrator. In fact, in many cases, victims have to wage a civil case to get any compensation at all, and that compensation generally never comes as the criminal is locked behind bars.

A system that forced a perpetrator to compensate their victim fully before they would be considered “free” would do many things. It would reinforce the true nature of their crime (an injured victim), reinforce accountability (to a real victim), provide an opportunity for both the victim and the perpetrator to “heal” from the event, and provide a clear timeline for the “punishment” phase – when the victim is fully paid.

The main thing standing in the way of such a change is the system itself which benefits financially in a significant way from retribution over restitution. The DA gets big points for “locking them away”, gets to use that for his next campaign slogan, the judges get their money, the jails/prisons get their money, etc. Unfortunately, the victim gets victimized again as they are forced to pay for the housing of this criminal all while they get nothing for their injuries.

Time for a serious re-think. The obvious implication of this too is that there could be no victimless crimes anymore. Prostitution, gambling, drugs, etc. have no direct victim (if no force or fraud is employed), and this would further undermine the state’s power and control over us and the money that fills their budgets every year. So don’t look for any changes too soon.

Andy

February 26th, 2014
1:30 pm

Andy, you’re an idiot. The kid DIDN’T break the law. He was setup. Now what?

====

I forgot, everyone in prison is innocent.

Hidden Agenda

February 26th, 2014
1:36 pm

Murray Rothbard’s “The Ethics of Liberty” does the best job I have read on the subject of victim compensation, fully private security and adjudication services, and true justice for victims. Not easy to address all the salient points in a short post. Fundamentally people need to get out of the mindset that everyone has to be “tough on crime” no matter what the crime (remember, many things the government has now criminalized used to be called freedoms less than 100 years ago). They also need to recognize that most violent crimes especially as committed by people against people they know (not random). Also, the case is not about “the state versus so and so” – it is about the victim versus so and so. The state justifies its existence by keeping us afraid of everyone. They make the case that these alleged criminals are a threat to us all, yet the statistics prove otherwise, and further claim that only putting them within the framework of a system that employs hundred of thousands of other government employees will “fix” the problem, yet recidivism rates are extremely high and the victim is still not compensated in the end.

That is not to say that being separated from the rest of society is not an appropriate place for some criminals, but the victim, their compensation, etc. can easily be worked into this framework as well. Again, a lot to cover in a short post. Read Murray’s great book. It available for free download on the Ludwig von Mises Institute web page if you are interested.

Denise

February 26th, 2014
2:18 pm

This is not new…this practice has been around for YEARS!!! Wake up people. You could care less now but when it comes home… @Andy..!@#$ *&%$ @^#%$ !*@&!!! Lucky for you this site is tamed.

Just me

February 26th, 2014
2:34 pm

Yeah, this practice started back around the early 1900s with the chain gang. Many American citizens, especially descendants of slaves, were framed for crimes and thrown on the chain gang for free labor to build the railroads.

The need for small military is also outlined in George Washington’s Farewell Address. The same address that’s read in front of Congress each and every year. Was that yesterday? I think yesterday the Armed Forces also called for increases in military spending.

Pa. Gal

February 26th, 2014
3:59 pm

This took place in my hometown. I knew the people involved. It was horrible….and the overwhelming majority of kids were white Mr. SMHaLLs. race was NOT a factor. Money was.

Richard

February 26th, 2014
4:18 pm

Some posters here state they are unfamiliar with the tenets of the Tea Party (posted on their web site) which demand reduction in government oversight: These libertarian anti-tax strivings are, of course, designed to reduce interference with profitable – but sometimes illegal activities, as in this case.

6. Government must be downsized.
7. The national budget must be balanced.
8. Deficit spending must end.
9. Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.
10. Reducing personal income taxes is a must.
11. Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.
12. Political offices must be available to average citizens.
13. Intrusive government must be stopped. –
See more at: http://www.teaparty.org/about-us/#sthash.O1y13Dj4.dpuf

zerobodyfat

February 26th, 2014
4:23 pm

Just wait until Deal gets us for profit DFACS and for profit charter schools. Anybody want for profit police writing speeding tickets? We’ve seen what for profit parking enforcement did to Atlanta – they wrote tickets to people regardless of whether their meter still registered time left. How dumb can people be? It’s not like they’re hiding it – they are FOR PROFIT – NOT for doing things right, fair, honestly, etc.

Hal Shirley

February 26th, 2014
4:43 pm

Guess what ? The same sort of thing goes on in Ga. Maybe not as overtly.

The Department of Corrections has the largest budget in the state…over 1 billion dollars per year are spent on locking people up and keeping people locked up. One in 12 Georgians are felons or ex felons. The national average is 1 out of 32 people. The largest employers in many south Georgia counties are the prisons.

Do these statistics reveal any thing ?

GeoffDawg

February 26th, 2014
4:45 pm

I see you selectively chose from the teaparty’s website Richard but honestly, what’s wrong with any of that? Advocating for less government interference in your life does not equate to racism, classism, or any other ism you want to throw at the wall to see if it sticks.

Bumper

February 26th, 2014
5:08 pm

Since there is no parole in the federal prison system ex-judge Ciavarella will do around 24 years if he qualifies for “good” time credit. If any of his former victims happen to wind up incarcerated in the same facility his time on earth could be even shorter – one can only hope.

just me

February 26th, 2014
5:37 pm

Let’s also not overlook the many law enforcement agencies and prison bureaus that do not want the drug laws relaxed in any way because legalizing certain drugs such as marijuana will lead to a reduction in their operational budgets. Of course it makes sense to the common man because if you are arresting and housing LESS criminals due to the reduced amount of drug offenses, it would seem that you wouldn’t need as much money as in previous years. However all they hear is that their budgets will be reduced and they’d have much less opportunity to confiscate and make use of cash, vehicles and other property that they have become accustomed to taking in the name of law enforcement.

Honestly

February 26th, 2014
7:21 pm

@Andy. Actually, there are some innocent people in prison. Look up the Innocence Project. If innocent people can go to prison for the most serious crimes, do you not realize there are some in there for lesser offenses. Talk to any criminal attorney, they will tell you the courts are not about justice.

Per the National Institute of Corrections, Georgia (2010) has a rate about 285% higher than the national average number of probationers per 100,000 people. That’s a lot of monthly fees they are collecting in addition to tax payers financing the system. Its a business and a huge one.

Jack ®

February 26th, 2014
7:28 pm

It’s easy to stay out of jail.

Reality

February 26th, 2014
8:55 pm

These youths were already well on their way to the criminal life. Poor innocent children, that is until they injure or kill your family member or friend. Here’s as idea for all the criminal lovers, let’s just set all the prisoners free because they are all innocent. Screw law enforcement all together! Does that makes you pro-criminal people happy? The US is spiraling downward and the rest of the world is celebrating our demise. Thanks!

Richard

February 26th, 2014
10:41 pm

@Jeff Dog and Atl Steve. Your question was – what does reduction in government, as proposed by the Tea Baggers, have to do with dishonest state judges accepting $2.6 million from private prisons in return for giving poor teen-agers longer sentences than legally required. The answer is – if government oversight had been reduced, these criminal judges would have continued to imprison innocent Americans in return for bribes. Similar federal oversight has allowed the capture of fraudulent medical practitioners and opiate dispensers who have billed federal agencies (Medicaid and Medicare) because of funded federal oversight. Private health insurance agencies have no ability to pursue these criminals so they raise the premiums for all of us and continue to finance malpractice. If this is not clear to you or you reject this information, it would appear that you do not want to accept the important role of the U.S. Government and should probably seek asylum elsewhere.

AtlSteve

February 27th, 2014
5:48 am

Richard @ 10:41
Your first sentence states “The Tea Party would like to block the federal oversight that eventually catches these corrupt state officials.”
None of the items you listed in your 4:18PM diatribe indicates that
6. Government must be downsized.
7. The national budget must be balanced.
8. Deficit spending must end.
9. Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.
10. Reducing personal income taxes is a must.
11. Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.
12. Political offices must be available to average citizens.
13. Intrusive government must be stopped. –

In fact, from the link you posted, the closest statement they make that would be semi-applicable to this story would be #4 – Special interests must be eliminated (which I notice you omitted) ‘

The Tea Party (I’m not a member) has never indicated they wanted to stop oversight of government officials who are acting illegally. In fact they have DEMANDED government officials need to be held accountable for the corruption that takes place.

Richard

February 27th, 2014
7:26 am

The Tea Party – like most right wingers – demand that the government take excellent care of them although they do not want to pay for it. Also, they state indifference to the needs of others. One candidate – Paul Broun – has demanded the shut down of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Highway Program, the I.R.S., Healthcare for Children, Food Stamps, and every other program he can think of. This person – awarded an M.D. degree by someone – refused to pay for a state license to practice medicine and had to be sighted (by a government agency) for practicing without a license. In the same breath – this Tea Party candidate – demands that these agencies perform without flaw (and apparently funding – maybe donate their time?). I won’t be trying to educate you anymore – it is obvious that you are thinking in the same vein as Paul Broun – why do I have to pay taxes? Why isn’t everything just provided for me so that I can keep all my money? Why don’t these government agencies leave me alone – I am such a good person – and regulate those ‘other people’? Right? Is your next question about evolution or global warming?

Chris Salzmann

February 27th, 2014
8:40 am

The Tea Party is an astro-turf party founded and initially funded by the Koch brothers and continue to receive support and funding from them. They advocate eliminating the EPA, IRS, Education Department, FDA, etc. just to name a few. Cutting income taxes and corporate taxes along with eliminating the EPA would of course, benefit the Koch brothers. I mean seriously, when Mitt Romney stood up and said that the top income tax should be reduced, didn’t anyone think that he was advocating a tax cut for himself??? Not to mention at the same time he wanted to raise the lower tier of income taxes to make up the difference. I guess paying his already 14% rate was too much for him. These are the same folks who want to teach Creationism in schools, cut any Federal oversight of State schools therefore allowing a new generation of ignorance to flourish. These are the same kind of folks who brought about “Right to Work” laws in many states where employers can fire employees for no reason, any reason or even make up reasons. Essentially, employees in these states have absolutely no protections whatsoever.

So yeah, the Tea Party are a bunch of morons who deserve time in the insane asylum. If they want their version of a state, they should move to Somalia. No government and lots of guns…..basically Tea Party heaven.

Atlanta Mom

February 27th, 2014
8:41 am

Unfortunately these men are serving their time in a federal pen. It would be much more fitting for them to be a state prison, where things are not so comfortable.

Richard & Chris

February 27th, 2014
9:20 am

We are members of the Koolaid Party. Off topic and delusional is our agenda.

Tom Gardner

February 28th, 2014
8:34 pm

Andy, you are one sorry, thoughtless idiot. “Duh… Don’t break the law”- I envisage this loser of a boy living with mom after his wife left him. Unemployed, bitter, bigoted loser. I hope you never have a child, and if you have, can guarantee that kid has no hope. Really? Imagine a kid, never ever in trouble before, who goes out with friends and impulsively knocks over a mailbox. he should get 60 days? Don’t know why I let morons like you get under my skin, but think its because I’ve met so many of you thick heads. Look at the Soviet style corrupt judicial system FIRST, then feel free to throw out mindless comments. Amazing how some people let narrow minded predjudices obscure any consideration of the real crime.

Karma is pure heck

March 2nd, 2014
1:15 am

Hopefully these two scumbag judges suffer immensely while serving time. Bet both of them can explain the definition of the word “karma.” Also hoping the Court system has confiscated their assets to reimburse the victims and to make certain the scumbag judge’s families do not benefit from this crime.

sal

March 2nd, 2014
2:07 pm

Absolutely disgraceful what happened here. Republicans have turned this country into a Communist, military Republican Police State. I can’t imagine sending kids to prison and ruining their lives for fighting or an offensive MySpace page. The judge and everyone involved in this scandal should be in prison for life.

jan

March 2nd, 2014
2:27 pm

The thing is, these kids were jailed for years for stuff that their own parents would have laughed at. Being jailed for years for buying a stolen moped even though you had no idea it was stolen is one of the worst abominations I can ever imagine. And then depriving them of a lawyer? The judges in this scandal deserve the death penalty.