Bad judges: The lowest of the low

corruption judges eat your children

Too True to be Comfortable

Adam Graycar, of the Rutgers Institute on Corruption Studies, explains that what is really unusual about this tale is the scale of the corruption. First the judges received monetary rewards for sanctioning the building of a new private-sector prison in their area. Second, they were paid for closing a county-funded prison nearby. And, then, of course, they offered up the “juvenile delinquents” for the benefit of the owners of the new jail.

Feb 26th 2009 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition

The judges are going to jail, …

EARLIER this month, two judges in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County admitted sentencing thousands of children to jail in return for kickbacks from a prison-management company. Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan received a commission for every day they sent a child to private juvenile detention centres run by Pennsylvania Child Care and a sister company. The pay-offs came to $2.6m over seven years.

Hillary Transue, who is 15 and faced Mr Ciavarella without a lawyer, was sentenced to three months because she constructed a fake MySpace page ridiculing the assistant principal at her high school. Her case led to the judges’ downfall; children have a constitutional right to a lawyer, …

This is not really news to me. While living in New Orleans I saw what police and judicial corruption really was. Growing up in Southern California I just wasn’t prepared for what I witnessed. At the time the city sheriff had managed to convert the city jail into an actual “prison”. This meant that people could end up spending up to two years at this facility and the city (read, sheriff) got paid for each prisoner each day. The “prison” had virtually no educational or communal facilities. By all reports tiers of 44 or so inmates with a small common area with benches sat around and talked, played chess or watched a single TV or fought, day after day. Anyone who was arrested an unable to make bail ended up here along with those who could not afford a lawyer. Court appearances will follow after court appearance until they plead guilty to a charge selected by the city. I have seen reports of inmates playing this dance, with the judges in full cooperation, for over a year before finally being released without charge. Not many have that kind of patience and after being sent back a few times will change their plea, receive time served and be released. The amount of tax money wasted on this while actual, violent criminal are released to make room for new warm bodies is stunning. The money New Orleans has made on this atrocity of a “jail” is staggering. IT is a common policy in New Orleans to arrest a poor local or tourist, hold them overnight then release them with no charge after getting “court costs” from them. If you ever visit the deep South in general or New Orleans in particular, NEVER argue with the cops. It just doesn’t pay…..you.