Disbarred judges in kids-for-cash scandal ordered to pay victims over $200 million in damages

Judge who awarded damages called plaintiffs "the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions"

Updated: August 19, 2022 - 8:22am

Two former Pennsylvania judges have been ordered to pay $200 million to hundreds of victims of their scheme while on the bench to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner on Thursday awarded $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to nearly 300 people in the long-running civil suit against the judges, according to the Associated Press.

Connor is awarding the damages said the plaintiffs are "the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions."

In the so-called kids-for-cash scandal, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, as judges shuttered a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit facilities, the wire service also reports.

Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, pushed a zero-tolerance policy that guaranteed a large number of children would be sent to PA Child Care and companion facility Western PA Child Care.

Ciavarella ordered children as young as 8 to detention. Many of them were first-time offenders deemed delinquent for petty theft, jaywalking, truancy, smoking on school grounds and other minor infractions. 

The judge often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to put up a defense or even say goodbye to their families, also according to the Associated Press.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out roughly 4,000 convictions involving over 2,300 children after the scheme was uncovered.

The incidents occurred from roughly 2003 to 2008.

Ciavarella, 72, is serving a 28-year prison sentence in Kentucky. Conahan, 70, was sentenced to over 17 years in prison but was released to home confinement in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the wire service also reports.