LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The infamous kids for cash scandal in Luzerne County that sent shockwaves through the nation’s juvenile justice system is again in the spotlight.
A federal judge ordered two former Luzerne County judges to pay millions of dollars in damages to the victims of the scheme.
Now we’re hearing reactions to the ruling from victims of the scandal.
The “Kids for Cash” scheme shocked the world thousands of kids were sent away to detention centers for very minor crimes or no crimes at all in exchange for millions of dollars in kickbacks paid to judges mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan.
Eyewitness News spoke with a young woman who was locked up as part of the scheme she says she is still trying to recover from the trauma.
“When I went in front of him my life was just taken away,” said Amanda Lorah, a “Kids for Cash” victim.
Amanda Lorah now 30 years old was only 13 when Judge Mark Ciavarella sent her to juvenile detention for nearly six years all for a minor fight in school.
“My family my dad my aunt called tried to fight for me to get out and they knew something was wrong. There was just nothing anyone could do,” explained Lorah.
Thousands of other kids told similar stories when they appeared before Ciavarella in juvenile court. Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 on federal corruption charges.
He was sentenced to 28 and a half years in prison in 2010, Conahan pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy he was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison he was released in 2020 because of covid 19 health concerns.
“I think this is finally going to give us closure and to be able to move on with our lives,” said Lorah.
Amanda’s family says they knew from day one that something just wasn’t right in Ciavarella’s courtroom. The kids for cash scandal led to changes in the nation’s juvenile justice system.
This week Federal Judge Christopher Conner ordered Conahan and Ciavarella to pay more than $200 million dollars to hundreds of victims.
“Ciavarella and Conahan abandoned their oath and breached the public trust…The plaintiffs are the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions,” stated U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Conner.
“I hope the court has sent a very from message that it costs to hurt children and that individuals will have to pay for that. If they do that to young people,” explained Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center.
Levick says hopefully this will help the victims, who are now young adults, move forward and heal.
“I think for this to conclude on this note whether or not there is money out there should be captured that’s an unknown question. Don’t know if resources, any of the judges have but the order will stay it will not go away. It will follow them the rest of their lives,” stated Attorney Levick.
Ciavarella remains locked up serving 28 and a half years sentence. Conahan was sentenced to 17 and a half years, he served about 10 years in prison but was released in 2020 because of COVID-19 health concerns.