Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Corruption in the Violence-Industrial Complex. (Surprise, Surprise!)

Are you as unsurprised as I am that corruption exists in the violence-industrial* complex? Color me shocked and awed.

The news break today is that two judges in Pennsylvania have plead guilt to federal fraud charges. These two judges - former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella and former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan - conspired with private juvenile detention facilities to generate business for the detention centers by inflating the sentences for juveniles involved in minor crimes. Over the course of five years, these two judges took in over $2.6 million by sentencing teenagers to incarceration for infractions that would normally result in a small fine, probation, or community service.

The private detention centers are owned by Mid Atlantic Youth Services Corporation. (Check out their schmaltzy web site and blatant lack of acknowledgement of their part in this. Send them an email demanding they own up and be accountable.)

The kids' biggest crime is that they could not afford a lawyer. From the CNN.com article:
"About 50 percent of the children who waived counsel before Ciavarella were sent to some kind of placement, the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center reports. In comparison, the Juvenile Court Judges' Commission in Pennsylvania found that 8.4 percent of juveniles across the state wind up in placement."
I'm having trouble holding down my breakfast.

A couple of things strike me about this injustice:
  1. I'm saddened beyond words for the kids who were unjustly impacted by this, and for their families. How many lives were turned upside-down by the callousness of the conspirators?
  2. The immense power of greed to turn reputable citizens into corrupt money-grubbing villians who have no care for the consequences of their actions.
  3. With this type of corruption a possibility, does privatization of the justice system make any sense at all?
  4. Where's the accountability on the part of the detention center? If the judges were paid $2.6 million, how much did Mid Atlantic Youth Services make off of this (at the expense of the PA tax payers)?
  5. If this kind of thing can happen in America, how bad must things be in countries where the rule of law is not as well established?
Normally, I would try to tie these postings into practical solutions for making the world a less-violent place but, as I sit with the thought that no punishment is harsh enough for these two judges, I'm at a loss today. How would something like a Department of Peace help in this situation? Any ideas from the peanut gallery?

* "Violence-Industrial" complex - an umbrella expression to include all commercial activities that have a vested interest in perpetuating the culture of violence in the U.S., including defense contractors, prison systems, military organizations, violent forms of entertainment, hand gun and assault rifle manufacturers, etc. (Q: Who would you add to this list?)


  1. I thought of something!

    The Department of Peace would include proliferation of best practices, including various flavors of Restorative Justice. RJ would go a long way toward repairing the damage done to the youngsters who were unfairly punished, as well as helping the perpetrators see the impact of their actions in a way that help in their rehabilitation.

  2. Bob Koehler also wrote on this topic. Check his article out on: