Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What people will do for money

I'm not much for ranking oppressions but you have to admit that children and mentally disabled adults don't have much institutional power. Those two groups did, however, prove to be quite profitable for two juvenile court judges in Pennsylvania and-- allegedly-- the Texas-based Henry’s Turkey Service.

Until someone used an anonymous hotline to tip off the state of Iowa, 21 mentally disabled men lived in a 106 year old building-- a bunkhouse, you might call it-- that depended on space heaters for heat. During the day they worked at a meatpacking plant for Henry's Turkey Service for the princely sum of about 44 cents an hour the rest going to Henry's Turkey. Their disability checks also went straight to Henry's Turkey, which returned about $60 a month to the men. That means, according to the Houston Chronicle, the men paid $1,124 a month for room and board.

Now it turns out that at least some family members had made complaints to the Dept. of Social Services, although the agency has no record of complaints. In the town of Atalissa, Iowa, with a population of fewer than 300 people and where the men lived and work, people are doing a little soul-searching.

"Maybe we should have looked a little harder," said (City Councilor) Hepker. "We depended on their caretakers. Des Moines Register.

The men, whom one imagines have developed quite a bit of camaraderie, have been placed in a group home.

For three years, Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan moved children through their courtrooms and got rich in the process. The scheme was simple: the judges would sentence the young to a for-profit lockup owned by PA Child Care LLC, and PA Child Care LLC would pay them-- more than $2.6 million.

Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.

Many appeared without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel. AP.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering expunging hundreds, maybe thousands of juvenile records. The judges will be sentenced to seven years in prison. The young people get a little justice and lifelong memories of their experience.

Photo from the National Juvenile Justice Network.


Anonymous said...

This story made my stomach turn...

In my opinion, the PA judges were let off far too easy. Not only should they have recieved a harsher sentence, but the monies they were paid (including their salaries) should have been taken away and given to those they sentenced to that living hell.

Michaelann Bewsee said...

Me, too. I was getting tired last night as I wrote this. but a good sentencing idea might have been to add up all the time that these judges sentenced young people to and make sure the judges' terms were at least equal to their victims' time served.