Children Behind Bars

Those familiar with my work will recall the corruption cases from Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County where judges sent children to jail, so they could profit from kickbacks and fees from the builder.
You’ve heard of these cases — but have you heard about the children?
In a recent column, I mentioned that children as young as 14 were sent into detention.  I was wrong.
Matt Kluback was only 13 when former President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella ordered him locked up.  His crime? His mother’s boyfriend said the boy pushed him around, and threw a piece of steak at him.  Matt, then in 7th grade, weighed less than 100 lbs at the time.
The child was charged with simple assault and harassment.
He spent 48 days in lock up before a local newspaper reported on his case, and 5 days thereafter, he was released.
Before this occurred, the county juvenile probation officer told Klubeck’s father that she could have the boy locked up until he was 21 years old!
Hillary Transue was 15 1/2 when she landed in Ciavarella’s courtroom. Her crime? She made a Myspace page about her high school’s assistant principal.  No–really.
She was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent, on charges of harassment — and given 3 months in juvenile detention.
The PA Juvenile Law Center got her released after a month in lock-up.
According to the JLC, Hillary was never informed of either her right to a trial, or her right to a lawyer.  Indeed, her mother unknowingly signed a waiver form, relinquishing her right to counsel.  All she knew was that the family couldn’t afford one.
Matt is in 12th grade now, hard at work on his aviation license.  Several years ago, he said, "My whole life is ruined."
Hillary told a reporter in Spring, 2009, "No one believes you when you say ‘A judge is committing crimes against juveniles and locking them up’ ".
Now, she’s thinking of going to college to become the best teacher she can be.
And the judges?  A federal judge recently ruled that they are mostly immune from civil liability for the actions they engaged in while on the bench.
Who says crime doesn’t pay?
[Source: Elliot-Engel, Amaris, "In Courthouse Scandal, Redemption for 'Bad Kids': Victims of Luzerne Juvenile Justice Scheme Fight Stigma, Self doubt to Reclaim Childhood,"  PA Law Weekly, Mon., May 18, 2009, pp. 1,8,14]

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