Two Pennsylvania judges who sent children as young as 8 to for-profit prisons, then pocketed part of the proceeds, have been ordered to pay back more than $200 million to their victims.
Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, both judges on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and then began siphoning off children from juvenile court to PA Child Care and its sister facility, Western PA Child Care, according to prosecutors.
Many of the children were first-time offenders charged with misdemeanors and misdemeanors, including mocking a deputy manager on MySpace and trespassing on a vacant building.
In this September 15, 2009 file photo, former Luzerne County Court judges Michael Conahan, front left, and Mark Ciavarella, front right, leave the U.S. District Courthouse in Scranton , Pennsylvania (Mark Moran/The Citizens’ Voice/)
Ciaverella is currently serving 28 years in prison. Conahan was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison and released to house arrest in 2020 during the COVID-19 releases.
More than 4,000 convictions were overturned when the scandal broke.
Nearly 300 plaintiffs in the civil suit were awarded $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.
“Ciavarella and Conahan have reneged on their oath and breached the public trust,” U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner wrote Tuesday.
“Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom suffered from emotional problems and mental health issues.”
With dispatch services