Kids for Cash by William Ecenbarger
Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme

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Synopsis

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 William Ecenbarger

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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.
 
Published October 23, 2012 by New Press, The. 290 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Children's Books, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical, History, Crime. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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He also highlights the pioneering work of Philadelphia’s Juvenile Law Center, a nonprofit that played a significant role in ensuring that justice finally prevailed: Ciavarella was convicted on 12 counts of racketeering and money laundering, and he was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Aug 06 2012 | Read Full Review of Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Th...

The New York Times

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An investigative journalist examines a juvenile justice scandal, and a maverick defense lawyer recounts his most fraught case.

Mar 29 2013 | Read Full Review of Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Th...

The New York Times

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An investigative journalist examines a juvenile justice scandal, and a maverick defense lawyer recounts his most fraught case.

Mar 29 2013 | Read Full Review of Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Th...

Publishers Weekly

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Pulitzer-winning journalist Ecenbarger spares no detail in recounting how two rural Pennsylvania judges' schemed to incarcerate thousands of kids in a privately owned juvenile detention center in exchange for millions in kickbacks.

Aug 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Th...

ForeWord Reviews

(In the not-distant past, education majors at the University of Scranton were told that if they hoped to get a teaching job in the region, they better include $5,000 cash with their applications.) Ecenbarger skillfully sorts out the too-clever money-laundering scheme and identifies the culprits...

Nov 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Th...

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