LEGAL: Judges Who Sent Kids to Detention Centers for Financial Kickbacks Ordered To Pay Over $200 Million

For almost seven years, two Pennsylvania judges sent hundreds of children—some of them as young as 8 years old—to privately run juvenile detention centers in exchange for financial kickbacks. On Tuesday, Judge Christopher Conner ordered former Judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan to pay over $200 million in compensatory and punitive damages to their victims.

Starting in 2000, the pair sent children into juvenile detention for offenses as innocuous as jaywalking, petty theft, or truancy. In what became known as the "kids for cash" scandal, the children were sent to two privately run detention centers whose builder and co-owner paid the men $2.8 million, according to the Associated Press, over the course of the scheme.

According to testimony from plaintiffs during the class-action suit, many of the sentences the children received were staggering. One plaintiff, who was 16 at the time, was sentenced to 11 months for driving the wrong way down a one-way street without a license. Another girl, then only 10, was sent to detention for a schoolyard fight with no serious injuries. One child was sent to detention for stealing a Hershey bar, another for writing on a school window with a marker. Several plaintiffs testified that their sentences were based on entirely arbitrary means, such as the number of birds in a tree outside the courtroom or the number of buttons on a girl's blouse. One plaintiff was sentenced to an additional eight months in detention after Ciavarella instructed him to pick a sports team, and he picked the wrong one.

Read more at Reason.