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Friday, February 13, 2009

Your "Honor"

The following article appeared, in somewhat longer form, on the front page of the NY Times this morning:

"Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit

"At worst, Hillary Transue thought she might get a stern lecture when she appeared before a judge for building a spoof MySpace page mocking the assistant principal at her high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She was a stellar student who had never been in trouble, and the page stated clearly at the bottom that it was just a joke.

"Instead, the judge sentenced her to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment.

"She was handcuffed and taken away as her stunned parents stood by.

"“I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare,” said Hillary, 17, who was sentenced in 2007. “All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”

"The answers became a bit clearer on Thursday as the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

"While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled...."

The article goes on to state that if the court agrees to the plea agreement, each judge will serve eighty-seven months in prison and resign from the bench and bar.

Eighty-seven months is a little over seven years, which means with good behavior the judges could be out in four years or so. If each of the 5000 youths Ciavarella was estimated to have sentenced was given an average of three months in a juvenile detention facility, that means these judges essentially stole fifteen thousand months from their young lives. That's 1250 years. So eighty-seven months hardly seems like proper repayment.

This strikes me as akin to a bank robber who steals $1,250,000 only being asked to repay $7,000 of it.

Here's another way to look at it: these youths were essentially all working for the judges' $2.6 million. If you think of each work day as being sixteen hours long (their approximate waking hours), and figure they were working thirty days a month, those fifteen thousand months come out to 7,200,000 hours of slave labor. So the judges were getting approximately 36 cents an hour for their teenage victims.

This, of course, is not even taking into account the trauma which many of the teenagers undoubtedly suffered. Juvenile detention facilities are generally not welcoming places, and there were probably sexual assaults and beatings which will scar some of the teenagers for life.

So the question is, what IS the appropriate punishment for these judges?

(Hint: an eternity in hell would be far too lenient.)


Anonymous said...

These judges are disordered in my book. It would be nice if the victims (whose punishment didn't fit the crime) could sue these men, for emotional distress.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
Yes, and their disorder is probably sociopathy. They really deserved far more than they go. I hope their victims all do bring civil suits against these scum.