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With ‘judges’ like these …

March 2, 2009

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Luzerne County Courthouse, Pennsylvania
Luzerne County Courthouse, Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County, there are nine judges of the Court of Common Pleas. Two of them just pled guilty to a conspiracy to convict and sentence juveniles to a private prison, so that they could get kickbacks from the prison’s builders and owners.

According to published accounts, Judge Mark A. Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan sent hundreds of boys and girls to the private facility and pocketed some $2.5 million in kickbacks.

This was accomplished not merely because of the venal greed of the judges, but because virtually none of the children were provided with legal representation.

When the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center filed a petition in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court calling the county’s practice of adjudicating and sentencing some 250 kids to jail without legal representation unconstitutional, the state’s highest court denied the petition on Jan. 8, 2009.

To make matters even worse, recently filed criminal information states that the two judges used their power and influence in the county to de-fund the county juvenile facility, precisely as they were steering kids to the private jail (boy – talk about privatization!).

Nearly a month later, the state’s highest court changed their minds, vacating the denial.

What transpired in the interim? Well, for one thing, the two judges provisionally pled guilty to federal charges of honest wire service fraud.

Hundreds of children get socked into jail, after demonstrably unconstitutional proceedings with no legal representation, and the state’s highest court doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

The media reports on this outrage, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court expresses little interest. This is the nature of judging these days, when even kids are expendable fodder for the prison industrial complex.

Luzerne County is the state’s 10th largest county, with just over 300,000 souls. At least 22 percent of their judges have admitted being corrupt, in the sordid business of selling the freedom and well-being of poor children for profit.

Sources: Legal Intelligencer, 2/3/09; 2/4/09.

Mumia Abu-Jamal
Mumia Abu-Jamal
© Copyright 2009 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party,” winner of the 2005 People’s Choice Award, available from South End Press, or (800) 533-8478. Keep updated by reading Action Alerts at and To download mp3s of Mumia’s commentaries, visit or For recent interviews with Mumia, visit Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews to inspire progressive movement and help call attention to his case. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

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