By SAMUEL MARTINEZ, age 12
The documentary film Kids for Cash, directed by Robert May, focuses on a political and judicial scandal that took place in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. In 2009, judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella pled guilty to sending children ages 10 to 18 to juvenile detention centers in exchange for kickbacks (money) from these privately run facilities. Even though the crimes were nonviolent, the children were still sent to detention centers.
The kids’ sentences lasted between two months and six years for very minor crimes. One student was jailed for creating a fake myspace page about her vice principal. Judge Ciavarella sentenced her to four years in a private juvenile detention facility.
The film connects testimony and comments made about Mark Ciavarella. Ciavarella claims that the money was given legally as a “finder’s’ fee,” and students were being jailed before money was being exchanged.
Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are currently serving sentences for their actions. Mark Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison, and Michael Conahan was sentenced to 17.5 years.
Kids for Cash presents an outstanding overview of the scandal, and looks at both sides of the argument. While affected children and parents were against the jailings of the students, some schools favored it, as it removed students with disciplinary issues from their responsibility.