Kids for Cash

Kids for Cash Cover

Kids for Cash

Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.8 Million Kickback Scheme

By William Ecenbarger

New Press, Hardcover, 9781595586841, 272pp.

Publication Date: October 23, 2012

Description
When thirteen-year-old Matthew appeared in front of Judge Mark Ciavarella for throwing a piece of steak at his mother's boyfriend, he was sentenced to seven weeks at PA Child Care, a private, for-profit juvenile detention center in northeastern Pennsylvania. Angelia was fourteen when she and a friend scrawled Vote for Michael Jackson on five stop signs. Charged with vandalism and defacing public property, Angelia was sent by Ciavarella to PA Child Care without her epilepsy medication and suffered a grand mal seizure her second night. Fifteen-year-old Charlie, arrested for unknowingly purchasing a stolen motorbike, was convicted of a felony and sent to PA Child Care for six weeks.
Matthew, Angelia, and Charlie are just three children among the thousands who appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom between 2003 and 2008 and were sent away often with no attorney present and after only cursory hearings to a detention facility in which, it later came to light, Ciavarella had a personal financial stake. As Kids for Cash reveals, this miscarriage of justice underscores a multitude of problems with our juvenile justice system, which too often criminalizes standard adolescent behavior, treats adolescents more harshly than if they were adults, and denies them their most fundamental constitutional rights.
William Ecenbarger, a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award winning investigative journalist who covered the case for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now gives us the first book-length account of this shocking story. In the tradition of true-crime legal thrillers from The Executioner's Song to A Civil Action, Ecenbarger exposes a deeply corrupt and broken system that ruined the lives of many children and ultimately led to the judge's conviction on charges of racketeering, fraud, tax violations, money laundering, extortion, and bribery. Fastidiously researched and utterly propulsive, Kids for Cash takes us deep inside a profoundly flawed legal system, revealing the twisted and haunting realities of America's juvenile justice system.


About the Author
William Ecenbarger was part of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporting team that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Once an international correspondent for Reader s Digest, he has been published in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Esquire, Audubon, and other leading newspapers and magazines. He is also the author of Walkin the Line, a travel-history narrative about the Mason-Dixon Line. He lives with his wife, a travel photographer, in Hershey, Pennsylvania."


Praise For Kids for Cash

If only this were fiction. William Ecenbarger deserves our gratitude for shining the brightest of spotlights on a tragic, scandalous situation that brought pain and devastation to the lives of countless children and their families. Kids for Cash demands the attention of everyone who cares about justice.” Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and former New York Times Op-Ed columnist

A chilling account of how two Pennsylvania judges traded children's freedom for personal profit while the rest of the Commonwealth looked the other way. Parents will tuck their children in a bit tighter after reading this true-crime heart-stopper.” Nell Bernstein, award-winning journalist and author of All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated

William Ecenbarger exposes Pennsylvania’s recent juvenile justice disgrace wherein thousands of youth were illegally sentenced to a private detention facility in exchange for millions in kickbacks for the judges who sentenced them. His heartfelt, articulate outrage raises disturbing and critical questions about the destructive power of greed in our criminal justice system, and the legal and social systems that support it through silent acquiescence.” Tara Herivel, attorney, author and co-editor of Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration and Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor

A gripping and inspirational must read’ for anyone concerned about the health and well-being of children.” Liz Ryan, President and CEO of Campaign for Youth Justice

A gripping story of judicial incompetence, a system that ignored it, and the thousands of kids scarred for lifea story that begs for juvenile justice reform across America.” Steven C. Teske, Chief Judge, Juvenile Court of Clayton County, GA, author of Reform Juvenile Justice Now

An unimaginable story of abuse, greed, and corruption that also reveals the broader problems with our society's failure to protect some of its most vulnerable, powerless, and at-risk membersa critically important book.” Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, New York University Professor of Clinical Law

"This expose of judicial indiscretion, greed, and money laundering reads like a thriller. The setting is the Luzerne County, PA, juvenile court system between 2003 and 2008, when two judges mishandled the criminal cases of thousands of children. After presenting a rather unflattering history of the region, citing a culture of corruption,’ Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist [William] Ecenbarger describes the background and criminal activities that form the heart of the case. The book is based on 200 interviews and reflects the author’s insider knowledge of the scandal, which he covered for the Philadelphia Enquirer. . . . A solid, shocking work of investigative journalism, recommended for civic-minded general readers and students of juvenile justice issues."
Library Journal

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