November 13, 2012
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author William Ecenbarger Discusses His New "Kids-for-Cash" Book
On Wednesday, November 28, Juvenile Law Center will present an event in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia featuring author William Ecenbarger. Ecenbarger, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Three Mile Island disaster and a George L. Polk Award for his coverage of corruption in the Pennsylvania legislature. Ecenbarger will discuss his new book Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.8 Million Kickback Scheme (New Press).
Kids for Cash tells the story of the Luzerne County judicial corruption scandal, which Juvenile Law Center helped uncover in 2007 following a call from an alarmed parent that prompted us to investigate irregularities in Luzerne County's juvenile court. We discovered that hundreds of children routinely appeared before Judge Mark Ciavarella without counsel and were quickly adjudicated delinquent (found guilty) for minor offenses. Many of the children were immediately transferred to out-of-home placements. Juvenile Law Center petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2008 to vacate the juveniles' adjudications of delinquency and expunge their records.*
In his book, Ecenbarger paints a portrait of Luzerne County's long-standing "culture of corruption," which paved the way for the scandal. From the origins and growth of the scandal, to Juvenile Law Center's role in unearthing it, the book culminates with Ciavarella's trial and conviction on twelve counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, and tax fraud. (Ciavarella is now serving a 28-year sentence in federal prison).
Ecenbarger's thoughtful and revealing interviews with the children who were involved in the scandal provides insight into the harsh treatment and long-term collateral damage. In a recent Wilkes-Barre Times Leader article, Ecenbarger recounted one such story:
"There was a girl who was in an argument with her mother or sister, she stormed out of the house and a cop car was going by and she gave the cop the finger. She went before Ciavarella and he sent her away to a place 250 miles from her home for six months ... This kid was on the honor roll, she was a Girl Scout, she went to weekly Bible meetings, she had never been in trouble in school. All she did was give a cop the finger, which, by the way, is protected by the First Amendment. That's the kind of thing that was really distressing."
Free Library Author Event, featuring William Ecenbarger
Presented in partnership with Juvenile Law Center
When: November 28, 2012, at 7:30 PM
Where: Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Cost: Free (no tickets required)
RSVP here on our Facebook page.
For more information, call the Free Library at 215-567-4341.
*In 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the adjudications of all youth who appeared before Ciavarella between 2003-2008, dismissed their cases with prejudice and ordered all of their records expunged. Read more about our ongoing work to obtain justice for over 2,500 children who were involved in the scandal.