We’re suppose to have faith with those in our criminal justice system. We;re supposed to believe that they will be fair and will never presume guilt until proven otherwise, or give out an unjust punishment. Yet, realistically, this is impossible. At times, that lack of justice can reach a scale so large that it rocks the system to it’s core and affect thousands of lives.
Justin, was one of those lives. When he was 12 years old, he got into an argument with a mother of another child. This mother, not at all thrilled with his behavior, contacted the school’s police office. His mother, wanted to set him straight, hoping to get him into a program. She allowed the police officer to arrest him. He was later charged with terrorist threats and went before Judge Ciavarella where he was sentenced to 7 years in prison. There were no crimes he committed, besides bad behavior. All that that happened was his use of foul language with parents. He found himself in a downward spiral. He soon began to do various drugs and steal cars. Yet when the scandal came to light, he found himself getting out and is attempting to turn his life around.
His story is one of over 2,000. Judge Ciavarella is one who can be considered the “mastermind” behind the entire scandal. He accepted large bribes from juvenile facilities in exchange for promising to send children there, even for very small offenses. This was because the more children they had in these facilities the more money they would receive themselves. These children were guilty of small, almost not even noteworthy, offenses, ranging from creating a prank MySpace page to underage drinking.
It was a small miracle that justice was able to prevail and that these children were given a second chance at life. Yet Ciavarella, never admitting to his guilt, currently finds himself severing a 28 year prison sentence. Having been sentenced in 2011, he’s expected to be released in 2039.
After several years of almost chaotic press stories, furious parents, and 2,401 lives having been destroyed, those responsible for the Kids for Cash Scandal finally faced justice, bringing this horrible story of greed and pain to an end.
You might find yourself asking how one individual can let the idea of getting money rule over the ethical responsibilities required to be a judge, but it happens far more than we think, just not on this scale. Everyday individuals, especially minorities, are receiving harsher and unfair punishments for their crimes and it’s contributing to an increasingly unfair and harmful criminal justice system in America.
The Kids for Cash Scandal is a horrific reminder of the worst aspects of human nature, and how that greed manages to overrule protecting the people who may need the help our system is supposed to provide the most. We can never allow ourselves to forget it, how many lives it’s affected, or how the stories we don’t hear, and how the biases we don’t see, affect those around us.