Two judges who sent children to for-profit jails and received illegal payments for doing so have been ordered to pay more than $200 million in damages, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Driving the news: Train judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan will pay $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to more than 300 people who filed a civil lawsuit against them.
- US District Judge Christopher Conner held that the plaintiffs were “the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions.”
- The judge said the punitive damage amount was chosen due to the “unspeakable physical and emotional trauma” on the children involved in the scheme.
What he said: “Ciavarella and Conahan abandoned their oath and breached the public trust,” he wrote. “They conspired to close existing detention facilities and construct new ones in exchange for millions of dollars.”
- “Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom were suffering from emotional issues and mental health concerns,” he added.
Catch-up quick: The two judges decided to shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and instead send multiple children to for-profit lockup centers PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care from 2003 to 2008, the Associated Press reports.
- While that happened, the two received $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of the for-profit centers.
- The two judges were convicted in 2008 for their roles in the scandal, which has been referred to as “kids-for-cash.”
Background: Many of the children sent to the lockups were convicted of minor crimes with some being as young as 8, the Associated Press reports.
- Some children were sent into detention without the chance to say goodbye to their families.
- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court erased close to 4,000 convictions that had been issued by Ciavarella, NBC reports.
Worth noting: Ciavarella is currently serving 28 years in prison, per The Daily Beast.
- Conahan is serving in home confinement after being released in 2020. He has already served 11 years of a 17-year sentence.