Folks thought that once Obama was
in office people of color would have no more excuses about the man or the
system being against them. There would be no more conspiracy theory left to
keep us down. If Obama can make it, there is no reason why we cant.
Ask the children of Luzerne
County, Pennsylviana if they could
do and be who what they wanted to be. The answer up until a month ago would
have been, No!
Last month two juvenile court
judges, Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58 and Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56 plead
guilty to a scheme that involved sending thousands of juveniles to two private
detention centers in exchange for $2.6 million in kickbacks, reports the New
The children of Luzerne
County, Pennsylviana would come
before Judge Ciaverella who wouldnt inform them of their rights to an attorney
and would find them guilty in under ten minutes. He once told reporters, Its not
my job to spoon feed people, when asked about the lack of attorneys for
children as young as 14 years old. When families approached attorneys to
represent them, they would decline stating there was no point. Innocence played
no factor, it was about the money.
Day after day parents would bring
their child to court and be forced to leave without them, unsure of what just
Kruger, for example, was 17 when he was sent to a boot camp for five months in
2004 for being a lookout for a friend who was stealing DVDs from a Wal-Mart.
DayQuawn Johnson was 13 when he was sent to a detention center for several days
in 2006 for failing to appear at a hearing as a witness to a fight, even though
his family had never been notified about the hearing and he had already told
school officials that he had not seen anything. Both juveniles were first-time
Before the judges even began
their caseloads each day, court officers and the detention centers were already
aware of how many new prisoners to expect. They would be funneled to private detention
centers build by a friend of the two judges and was on contract with the juvenile
court system of Luzerne County.
For each child sentenced, the
dentition center received money and the judges got their cut.
The scheme, which had been running
since June 2000, unraveledthe judges bought yachts, Florida
condos, and expensive homes with the funds. If it had not been stopped the
racket would have produced thousands of Herman
In February, 70 children and
their families filed a class action suit against the courts. The judges will be
sentenced next month and will serve a minimum of seven years because of their
How do you protect your children
from this? Its no longer enough to be good, go to school, stay out of trouble
when in these courts you would have been sentenced for being present at a fight
or not paying a fine.
The real outrage is for the
thousands of children, guilty or not, who will be scared by the industrial prison
complex. Of the thousands of children sentenced, an estimated 2,500 will have
their records cleared. Still, that doesnt erase the experience of being
treated like cattlebought, sold and tradedfrom their impressionable minds.
As a parent, how do you protect
your child from The System?
We worry about gangs, pedophiles,
drugs, bullies. All these pale in comparison to the man in the black robe entrusted
to provide fair and balanced justice.
Lets just hope these two will receive
the same treatment their victims did while they were locked up.
For the last seven years, Chloé
A. Hilliard has been a culture/entertainment journalist,
writing for the Village Voice, Essence, Vibe, King, and The Source. In addition to writing The X Fact(her), a hip
hoppers humorous look at politics, she co-hosts Im Sayin Radio, a
weekly talk show, and aspires to be a vegan. Learn more about her on chloehilliard.com.