Sunday, July 03, 2011

''We Are a Nation of Laws'' Corrupt Judges and the Prison Industrial Complex

Although this article from Truthout, July 1, 2011, deals with much concerning America's Prison Industrial Complex, and of that, more in a minute. It was this revelation, exposing the criminality of two Pennsylvania judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, that made me sit up and take notice. Well it would wouldn't it?

Before moving to the Truthout article, perhaps this brief extract from a different source, puts it all in a nutshell.

"I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre. link below.

The Corrupt Corporate Incarceration Complex

Seventeen-year-old Hillary Transue did what lots of 17-year-olds do: Got into mischief. Hillary's mischief was composing a MySpace page poking fun at the assistant principal of the high school she attended in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Hillary was an honor student who'd never had any trouble with the law before. And her MySpace page stated clearly that the page was a joke. But despite all that, Hilary found herself charged with harassment. She stood before a judge and heard him sentence her to three months in a juvenile detention facility.

What she expected was perhaps a stern lecture. What she got was a perp walk - being led away in handcuffs as her stunned parents stood by helplessly. Hillary told The New York Times, "I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare. All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing."

It wasn't until two years later that she found out why. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, two judges pleaded guilty to operating a kickback scheme involving juvenile offenders. The judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, took more than $2.6 million in kickbacks from a private prison company to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. Since 2003, Ciaverella had sentenced an estimated 5,000 juveniles. Conahan was accused of setting up the contracts. Many of the youngsters shipped off to the detention centers were first-time offenders.

PA Child Care is a juvenile detention center in Pittston Township, Pennsylvania. It was opened in February 2003. It has a sister company, Western PA Child Care, in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Treatment at both facilities is provided by Mid Atlantic Youth Services. Gregory Zappala took sole ownership of the company when he purchased co-owner Robert Powell's share in June 2008.

In July 2009, Powell pled guilty to failing to report a felony and being an accessory to tax evasion conspiracy in connection with $770,000 in kickbacks he paid to Ciavarella and Conahan in exchange for facilitating the development of his facilities.

The article then moves on to generalities, until that is, our attention is drawn to the draconian immigration laws recently passed in Arizona. Pay particular note of the last paragraph.

.....Lee Fang reports in ThinkProgress that, in December 2009, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - a powerful front group that helps corporate representatives craft template legislation for state lawmakers, funded partially by the private prison industry - hosted Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R) and began debate on legislation that would provide broad powers to local police to arrest anyone who might look like an immigrant. The ALEC then distributed the template legislation to its members. The January/February 2010 edition of ALEC's magazine highlights the draft version of SB1070 - the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" - as model legislation.

It was Pearce who introduced ALEC's "template" as the infamous SB1070 law. Notably, the ALEC task force, which helped Pearce devise his racial profiling law, included Laurie Shanblum, a CCA lobbyist. CCA previously played an important role in privatizing many of Texas' prisons.

An investigation by Arizona's KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Arizona's Gov. Janet Brewer's deputy chief of staff, was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA), and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer's campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA. .....

Nice huh?

From there on down the article's content focusses on just how poorly these private prisons are run, and just how inadequate their facilities are for prisoner care. The basic message being, don't get sick because you will die. More Truthout.

But it is the case of two bent judges that caused me to look into this thing a little deeper, so here is a short read that encompasses the quote already employed above.

Pennsylvania Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan's Mischief Anything but Juvenile more FindLaw.

And a more in depth look at Ciavarella and Conahan, from the New York Times. Both recommended.

Despite Red Flags About Judges, a Kickback Scheme Flourished more NYT

There is this short report below from Russia Today. But somewhere in all this, there is mention of a youth being sentenced to a Boot Camp. If you want to see what happens in such typically, if not uniquely American institutions, you may wish to visit a previous post of mine that does include some rather harrowing footage of the death of a young (black) boy at the hands of, and I know I'm in danger of wearing the word out; these inadequates.

All White Jury Acquit Boot Camp Killers


Anonymous said...

Almost positive Hillary was fifteen when she was sent away for the Myspace...just sayin'.

Himself said...