Two former Pennsylvania judges who orchestrated a scheme to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks have been ordered to pay more than $200 million to hundreds of people they victimized in one of the worst judicial scandals in U.S. history.
A federal judge awarded $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to plaintiffs in a long-running civil suit against the judges.
In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, Mark Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit lockups.
Ciavarella was a juvenile court judge. He had a zero-tolerance policy, which led to many kids as young as 8 being sent to detention.
Once their scheme was discovered, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out some 4,000 juvenile convictions involving more than 2,300 kids.
Ciavarella was sentenced to a 28-year prison sentence, which he currently serves in Kentucky.
The 72-year-old is projected to be released in 2035.
Conahan was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, he was released in 2020 to home confinement.
The 70-year-old has six years left on his sentence.