A detailed examination of the origins and impacts of a juvenile justice scandal that rocked Pennsylvania from 1996 to 2009. Under the judicial tenure of Judge Mark Ciavarella, thousands of children in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County were shuttled into a for-profit youth prison that he had a hand in designing. Along with fellow judge Joe Conahan, personal injury lawyer Robert Powell, and commercial real estate developer Robert Mericle, Ciavarella orchestrated the imprisonment of misbehaving young people while profiting from their punishment. He followed a zero-tolerance policy, meting out the harshest sentences, no matter the crime. Under this judicial paradigm, Ciavarella funneled young people who entered his courtroom into Pennsylvania Child Care, the for-profit youth prison that was lining the conspirators’ pockets. This clear and detailed account, which includes interviews with some of the victims, examines not only how this facility came into being and how its benefactors profited from the imprisonment of children but also how earlier events, such as the 1959 Knox Mine Disaster, paved the way for a culture of government corruption in Luzerne County and allowed the “cash for kids” scheme to happen.
"Well researched and concisely reported, this heart-wrenching story is presented in an easy-to-follow and appealing manner. Supporting images of various figures, places, and pieces of evidence provide thought-provoking breaks in the text that emphasize just how real this miscarriage of justice was.
An informative and accessible exploration of a major prison crisis with direct relevance to youth.
This was very well researched and written. I hope many people will read it and find a passion for reform. Numbers have dropped since the super predator era, but we have a long way to go to create a healing and harm reducing justice system for our kids. And I have to echo one sentiment from late in the book: while these kids obviously deserve justice and I am thrilled their story got attention and results, would this have been the case in a primarily Black or brown community? 70% of incarcerated youth are non-white. All of the stuff outlined in this book? Happens so much more to POC. ALL of our kids deserve a chance to be better, regardless of race, and this type of reform needs to be more widespread than it is currently.
-Goodreads Review Excerpt