Criminal Justice For Juveniles

   By drodriguez  Mar 30, 2009

In this day and age it is sadly not shocking to hear of people in positions of authority acting in direct conflict to their sworn public duties.  Last month two judges in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks from a private juvenile detention center.  But what makes this case so incredible is that these two judges were taking millions in return for sentencing children to the two detention centers doling out the cash. 

The more young people the judges sent to jail, the more money they saw.  Thousands of kids, many of whom were first time offenders, were sent up river between 2002 and 2008.  Eric Stefanski recently talked about his wrongful incarceration to ABC's 20/20.  Eric was just 12 years old with no prior offenses when Judge Mark Ciaravella sentenced him to two years in prison for taking his mother's car on a joyride.  Eric's mother had only filed the police report because she needed her insurance company to pay for the minor damage Eric caused to her car. 

Deputy director of the Juvenile Law Center, Marsha Levick, reported about some of the other children who were sent to jail in Ciaravella's courtroom.  She said, "A child who shoplifted a $4 bottle of nutmeg, a child who was charged with conspiracy to shoplift because he was present when his friend was shoplifting.  A child who put up a MySpace page, taunting her school administrator." 

Ciaravella's sentencing was not only harsh but hasty as well.  It is being reported that many of the children that went before him were only given 2 minutes to present their case.

Pennsylvania juvenile judge, Arthur Grim, reviewed Ciavarella's cases.  He told ABC, "I'm seeing cases which seem to take in the neighborhood of a minute and a half to three minutes...That simply is not the way to do business." 

The courts are now in the process of overturning hundreds of the juvenile convictions.  But this will not undo the damage done to many of the children who were wrongfully jailed during their most formative years.  Since pleading guilty, Judge Ciaravella may be looking at 7 years in a federal prison for the crimes he committed.

What do you think of the way Judge Ciaravella conducted himself in his courtroom?

Do you think 7 years in prison is a suitable punishment for his crimes?

Make a Comment

the7thh0rcrux by the7thh0rcrux | Mount Carmel, PA
Aug 21, 2009

Today's society really bothers me. Yes, children need to be taught right and wrong but they do not need to be abused in any way and i believe this is abuse. They are taking more extreme measures on these children than probably adults doing more damage to our society.

tavining by tavining | Pikeville, NC
Jun 02, 2009

tavining This just made me want to cry. What is this world coming to? Todays society is so corrupt, so full of greed, that I don't even like to watch the news. I'm in NC, and our past govenor is under investigation. I believe completely with sherryc2001us, When I was 9 years old, I took a candy bar and got caught. The police handcuffed me and took me downtown and put me in a holding cell, waited for my father. WOW!!! I never took another thing. I believe the judge deserves to do his time and not in a blue collar prison, in a state prison. He needs to pay the consequences for his actions.

sherryc2001us by sherryc2001us | HIAWASSEE, GA
May 14, 2009

What happened to the days if a child did something like these examples, it was put back on the parents to administer the discipline? I remember as a child and my father was a deputy, a store manager would call for reported shoplifting. When my dad arrived, a report would be taken, but most of the time the store manager, my dad, and the parent would agree to the issue being resolved by the parent. This used to work! One time a parent told my dad that she wanted her child to go to jail, but winked at my dad to let him know she wasn't serious. The child was taken outside where he was placed in handcuffs and put into the back of the patrol car. By the time, they reached the bottom of the parking lot, the child was petrified. Today, this is a prominent business man who has no criminal history. When a child does something stupid, it should not follow them as they get older.

ajmorrison by ajmorrison | Sheppton, PA
May 07, 2009

This is a bad situation that continues to be investigated. It wasn't only judges involved but also attorneys who were receiving kick backs for sending these children to jail. There have been many news reports about children who didn't receive a fair trial.

villahills3 by villahills3 | LAS VEGAS, NV
May 05, 2009

What is really sad, is what used to be the parents domain is being hijacked by the courts. When I was a kid if someone did something stupid like take a pack of gum the parents would take care of the problem not the police or the criminal justice system. Maybe we also need to look at ourselves and how we treat our children. They are not adults and we need to stop treating them as such. While a 12 year old knows the difference between right and wrong, 2 years is just inhuman. Especially when those acts used to be taken care of by parents.

angelaryan15 by angelaryan15 | commerce, MI
May 04, 2009

I do not feel that seven years is enough for this judge to serve! He ruined the lives of these children! And i mean children! Does a 12 year old deserve a prison sentence for driving his mothers car without permission?!! My little brother did it when he was 10,he only got as far as the mailbox,because he backed into it,[as well as our 6 neighbors],and got stuck.We laugh about it to this day! My parents paid for the mailboxes,and my brother got grounded.It makes me sick to think of a judge sentencing these children,and there families,to these awful sentences.No,seven years is not enough.This is child abuse.

CurvyMeli by CurvyMeli | SCOTTSBORO, AL
Apr 26, 2009

The state of our judicial system today is blackened by the driving force of money behind it. In this case it was corruption that put the money into judges' pockets, but often it is the kind of corruption that puts money into the pockets of the government. I think children need the right kind of punishment; some of these kids could use a week in jail, or one night, and it would last them a lifetime. But can I really allow myself to condemn that judge to prison? I think the justice system, flawed as it is, should be more concerned with the juvenile institutions that were willing to pay to get kids that were not 'real' criminals into their doors.

rolliepollie by rolliepollie | NEWPORT, TN
Apr 22, 2009

When kids break the law they need to suffer the consequences. They need to know they laws apply to them the same as everyone else. I do feel 2 years in jail for a joy ride is a little extreme. Kids have committed murder and got 2 years or less. The mom said she filed a police report so the insurance company would pay for the damages he caused to the car. If she was concerned about her son not going to jail I wonder why she didn't just file a police report and say she caused the damage. She had to know he would get into some sort of trouble. News like this is nothing new. Our local law enforcement system is pretty screwed up. They do the same thing except it is adults. The judge puts people on probation for stupid stuff like a simple traffic violation for as much as 2 to 5 years and makes them person see a probation officer and the probation officer is a member of his family. They have stole thousands. Our judicial system in this country needs some serious help.

bejustpeachy1 by bejustpeachy1 | Tyler, TX
Apr 12, 2009

I just witnessness a trial hearing in a juvenile court and it was very disheartening to see the FUTURE OF THE WORLD getting in trouble....But when an adult, who has a career to deliver justice and truth violates the life and well being of a child in the name of Money...then that's crazy!

msfriendly by msfriendly | MONROE, WI
Apr 11, 2009

I think there needs to me some consistency with judgement in all cases. How do criminals with multiple offenses walk around free and then something like this happen to a young child? While I do think that children should maybe do community service to teach them a good lesson, that would be as far as this judgement should have gone! Who oversees these they not have to answer to anyone?

agaphmou by agaphmou | ASTORIA, NY
Apr 11, 2009

This goes to show that anyone can be corrupt.No occupation is free of scandal.

allovermobile by allovermobile | ANTIOCH, CA
Apr 05, 2009

While I agree that this is appalling, how do you think these people get that way? Somewhere along the line they decided this was acceptable. If the 12 year old stole his moms car there needs to be some punishment. If my son ever stole my car and damaged it he would be the one paying not the insurance company. Don't get me wrong I am not excusing any of the judges behavior and believe they should be punished to the utmost because they should be held to a much higher standard being in the position of power they are in. I am just sad to see where we are that so many people now a days do not take responsibility for their own actions and put the blame on others all the time.

southernkoors by southernkoors | Dupont, PA
Apr 04, 2009

I live in this area and believe there are still many others involved. I hope they investigate further. They should get life and face civil suits for the way they ruined these childrens lives

dolphin375 by dolphin375 | MARTINEZ, CA
Apr 03, 2009

so, i'm wondering where the DA and the kids counsel where during all of this. This doesn't seem right. And no, 7 years is not enough for the damage this guy has done.

reetl1 by reetl1 | CLEMENTON, NJ
Apr 01, 2009

I saw this show and I could not believe it. I can not imagine this happening to my child or anyone elses for that matter.