Again, more findings and more monitoring. And, again, a lack of oversight once the investigation was wrapped up in 2007.

By last year, department officials were congratulating themselves on the fact that there had not been a successful suicide attempt since 2003, as detailed in a state Auditor General's report. But the auditors didn't consider how many kids came close. Another New Times investigation revealed that the ADJC has, like many juvenile-corrections facilities around the country, become a mental-health asylum — something the deputy director over mental health services has acknowledged herself.


To be fair, in many ways, Arizona's juvenile-corrections system was set up for failure. It's widely acknowledged that incarceration — at least, the way the ADJC does it — simply does not work. Nor is it appropriate for the population.

There are plenty of examples of places that do it better. Just ask Aaron Kupchik, a sociology and criminal justice professor at the University of Delaware and author of a book called Judging Juveniles.

The idea of disbanding a juvenile-corrections system is scary and controversial, but not unheard of, he says. In the 1970s, the head of Massachusetts' program, Jerome Miller, shut down the state's facilities. He sent the most serious offenders to mental-health facilities and the rest to halfway houses, Kupchik says.

"It saved the state money. It was more humane. And there was really no consequence crime-wise. Of course, it cost [Miller] his job because people were so outraged that he would do this."

More recently, reforms have happened in several states, including Kansas and Missouri. The change wasn't as bombastic as what came to be known as "The Massachusetts Experiment," but it's been significant. And it hasn't gone unnoticed by Arizona juvenile-corrections officials. Several years ago, a group traveled to witness firsthand the Missouri model, which takes seriously the idea of treating kids like human beings — putting them in dormitory-like settings, rather than cells.

The sentiment was clearly lost here. Consider Arizona's juvenile-corrections "mission statement," as compared with that of Kansas, another state that has reformed its system to incarcerate as few kids as possible. In Kansas, the Juvenile Justice Authority strives to "prevent youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system," while the ADJC "enhances public protection by changing the delinquent thinking and behaviors of juvenile offenders committed to the department."

Closer to home, at least one county has shown that, even in Arizona, the conventional thinking can be changed. Pima County has worked for several years with the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and has cut the number of kids it sends to county detention and the ADJC in half. On its Web site (aecf.org), the JDAI details how its practices save money, cut down on racial discrimination, and protect public safety. Pima County officials are pleased with their success.

This is what should happen statewide, says attorney Ronan.

"The communities these kids live in need to take responsibility," she says, adding that the fact that few would actually need to be locked up and others would be eligible for Medicaid treatment would mitigate costs significantly.

Back here in Maricopa County, spokeswoman Gerchick is still concerned about the potential cost — in many ways — of a too-simple shift of responsibility from the state to the county.

As she observes, "We can't even get it right for adults."

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13 comments
NO to school-to-prison pipelin
NO to school-to-prison pipelin

NO to PRIVATIZING INCARCERATION....... This horror tale is despicable and the tip of the iceberg.......excerpt: "Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre. Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC....."

NO to school to prison pipelin
NO to school to prison pipelin

Arizona privatizing prisons and incarceration.... and see where it's headed?

"Two Pennsylvania Judges Accused Of Jailing Kids For Millions Of Dollars In Kickbacks MICHAEL RUBINKAM AND MARYCLAIRE DALE | February 11, 2009 06:16 PM EST | Kurt Kruger, who spent three days in juvenile detention and another four months at a youth wilderness camp because his friend was caught shoplifting DVDs, poses for a photograph in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. The northeastern Pennsylvania judge who sentenced Kruger and thousands of other youths and another judge has been charged with pocketing millions of dollars to send kids to privately owned youth detention centers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses. The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench. In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. "I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre. Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC....."

NO leadership in Arizona!
NO leadership in Arizona!

Arizona's goal is to incarcerate rather than educate. Shortsighted led by Sen. Pearce followed by his lemmings and the governor who follows his lead. Truly disgusting.

Citizen Taxpayer
Citizen Taxpayer

Average cost per inmate in 2008 per year in CA= $35,587. Tuition to Harvard University for a year= $32,557. Choice, as is keep spending, funding the revolving prison door churning out criminals that become worse because they are just warehoused in inhumane conditions. Or, we can educate and rehabilitate at a lower cost and end the madness. As it stands, it's like we are giving prisoners fish, instead of teaching them how to fish.

"I believe people don't realize how close they are to going to jail" -Street Poet Monte Smith

Amy Silverman
Amy Silverman

After this story went to press, some "progress" was made -- apparently the governor and legislature decided to put the plan on hold. The counties are forking over some money and things will likely remain status quo -- for a while. This is by no means a good thing. But it does give the state/counties time to consider the advocates' advice. Will they?

Concerned Mother
Concerned Mother

Juvenile corrections is a complete failure. Get these kids into vocational training, education and rehabilitation with the money -- not warehousing children and turning them into hardened criminals who will one day be back on the streets. The shortsighted legislators have created a monster. They have the responsibility to repair the damage.

edit needed
edit needed

PNT tech person: formatting help is needed in the comments, the comments are running together with no paragraphs.

Justice Seeker
Justice Seeker

Arizona privatizing prisons and incarceration.... and see where it's headed?

Two Pennsylvania Judges Accused Of Jailing Kids For Millions Of Dollars In KickbacksMICHAEL RUBINKAM AND MARYCLAIRE DALE | February 11, 2009 06:16 PM EST |

Kurt Kruger, who spent three days in juvenile detention and another four months at a youth wilderness camp because his friend was caught shoplifting DVDs, poses for a photograph in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. The northeastern Pennsylvania judge who sentenced Kruger and thousands of other youths and another judge has been charged with pocketing millions of dollars to send kids to privately owned youth detention centers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

"I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on.

The high court, meanwhile, is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the juveniles' records expunged.

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.

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

The judges are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud Thursday in federal court. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years behind bars.

Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County's juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, "I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame." Ciavarella, though, has denied he got kickbacks for sending youths to prison.

Conahan, 56, has remained silent about the case.

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day.

In Luzerne County, prosecutors say, Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure rich contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, at least some of that dependent on how many juveniles were locked up.

One of the contracts _ a 20-year agreement with PA Child Care worth an estimated $58 million _ was later canceled by the county as exorbitant.

The judges are accused of taking payoffs between 2003 and 2006.

Robert J. Powell co-owned PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care until June. His attorney, Mark Sheppard, said his client was the victim of an extortion scheme.

"Bob Powell never solicited a nickel from these judges and really was a victim of their demands," he said. "These judges made it very plain to Mr. Powell that he was going to be required to pay certain monies."

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella was ridiculously harsh and ran roughshod over youngsters' constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of one in 10.

The criminal charges confirmed the advocacy groups' worst suspicions and have called into question all the sentences he pronounced.

Hillary Transue did not have an attorney, nor was she told of her right to one, when she appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom in 2007 for building a MySpace page that lampooned her assistant principal.

Her mother, Laurene Transue, worked for 16 years in the child services department of another county and said she was certain Hillary would get a slap on the wrist. Instead, Ciavarella sentenced her to three months; she got out after a month, with help from a lawyer.

"I felt so disgraced for a while, like, what do people think of me now?" said Hillary, now 17 and a high school senior who plans to become an English teacher.

Laurene Transue said Ciavarella "was playing God. And not only was he doing that, he was getting money for it. He was betraying the trust put in him to do what is best for children."

Kurt Kruger, now 22, had never been in trouble with the law until the day police accused him of acting as a lookout while his friend shoplifted less than $200 worth of DVDs from Wal-Mart. He said he didn't know his friend was going to steal anything.

Kruger pleaded guilty before Ciavarella and spent three days in a company-run juvenile detention center, plus four months at a youth wilderness camp run by a different operator.

"Never in a million years did I think that I would actually get sent away. I was completely destroyed," said Kruger, who later dropped out of school. He said he wants to get his record expunged, earn his high school equivalency diploma and go to college.

"I got a raw deal, and yeah, it's not fair," he said, "but now it's 100 times bigger than me."

Arizona a decaying state
Arizona a decaying state

Using children as commodities for $$$'s is a disgrace. And you wonder why Arizona is a failed state -- this is the tip of the sick iceberg controlled by the true "abusers" under the guise of "saving the children".

Where is the public outcry? Gerchick needs to take some training and intern by living in the Hell-holes of Arizona's jails and prison, and take the Legislators with her. Then maybe, we might see some real change!

Disgraceful Arizona!
Disgraceful Arizona!

"To be fair, in many ways, Arizona's juvenile-corrections system was set up for failure. It's widely acknowledged that incarceration — at least, the way the ADJC does it — simply does not work. Nor is it appropriate for the population."

The Arizona Legislature and those who receive Federal grants to perpetuate failed policies and agencies are the true criminals. These experts gave you their reports and you've chosen to turn a blind eye while you pad your pockets, personal agendas and are beholden to the special interests that "control" Arizona.

Peoriaman
Peoriaman

So I wonder what the success rate of these juvenil's have been recently. Success rate 90%; 70% or even 5%? Probably the later if we consider the success rate of other establishments, such as our expensive and failing school system. Hear that sucking sound? Got milked?

 
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