18 Jun 2022


Flawed System Meets Corruption

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Academic level: College

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A criminal justice system that focuses on punishment at the expense of restoration and rehabilitation more so with regard to juveniles is clearly flawed (Monahan et al. , 2015; Weston, 2016) . The video Kids for Cash, however, depicts a much worse scenario where this flawed system becomes infected with corruption. The judges clearly carry most of the blame for betraying their oath of office to attain unjust enrichment at the expense of children. However, this problem would not have gone for so long in the laws and systems put in place by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice system functioned as they ought to. The two corrupt judges, Mark Arthur Ciavarella, Jr and Michael T. Conahan took advantage of flaws that already existed in the juvenile system (Giannatasio & Pennington, 2015) . The result of this combination of flaw and corruption resulted in ruining the lives of thousands of kids as well as actual deaths of some of the kids. The solution to this problem lies both in the overhaul of the system as well elimination of corruption and the possibility thereof in the entire juvenile criminal justice system. 

Kids for Cash showcased the lives of children who may not have been perfect but had a chance for a normal and fruitful life. Hilary Transue abused social media by putting up a Myspace page that was used by her peers to ridicule one of her teachers. Charlie Balasavage on the other part was innocent and only had a brush with the law when his parents mistakenly bought for him a stolen bike. Finally, Ed Kenzakoski developed some poor habits, and his parents turned to law enforcement officers for help with their son. The actions of law enforcement created a cascade of events that resulted in Ed committing suicide. The principle essence of the essay focuses on the issue of corruption by the two aforesaid judges . This corruption is based on the fact that in Pennsylvania, just as in several states within the USA, penal services are provided by private contractors. These contractors get paid per unit, with the unit of measure herein being the number of inmates. To ensure higher revenues through higher units, these contractors entered into an arrangement with juvenile judges to commit as many juveniles as possible to the system in return for kickbacks. It is based on this corrupt arrangement that the three juveniles ended up incarcerated and had their life adversely affected irrevocably. 

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It cannot be disputed that corruption made a major contribution to the incarceration of the infants and the ruin it visited upon their lives. However, placing the blame on the judges tells only half the story on what went wrong and how the lives of those children got ruined (Monahan et al , 2015) . The first part of the chain of causation lies in the fact that this three children did not have to appear before a judge in the first place. Juvenile criminal procedure places vast discretion on the arresting and investigating officer with regard to what is to be done before and after a juvenile has been arrested (Weston, 2016) . Clear evidence of this massive discretion is clearly shown in the case of Transue. The initial decision of the officer was to arrest her immediately and charge her with serious offenses . After talking with Transue’s mother, however, the police officer decides against an arrest immediately, or an all and also settles on light charges. This discretion was designed to protect children from an aggressive criminal justice system but was not available to prevent the three infants who were only guilty of misadventure from appearing before the corrupt judges. 

The second flaw was the absolute lack of due procedure, oversight, evaluation and monitoring by the individuals involved in the entire juvenile criminal process (Mears et al. , 2015) . In the case of Transue for example, summons to attend juvenile court took a very long time to come which necessitated Transue’s mother to make several follow-up phone calls. When she appeared in court, no hearing took place, and the judge adjudged her delinquent without any seeming adherence to any due procedure (Giannatasio & Pennington, 2015) . In the case of Ed, police collaborated with his father to plant evidence on him and arrest him. The fact that police officers can plant evidence on a juvenile and use it to make an arrest under any circumstances indicates a system that lacks oversight, the due procedure as well as a proper form of monitoring and evaluation. It is based on the same flaw that Ed ends up placed in a camp with hardened criminals who occasion him an absolute character change. This is flaws in the system that must be assessed and reviewed. 

Judicial processes, as well as judicial officials, are an important component of any criminal justice system. When judicial officers are compromised for any reason whatsoever, this may result in a massive miscarriage of justice as revealed by the Kids for Cash film. The most unfortunate part was that the cause for compromise was pecuniary gain with the judges seemingly selling the juveniles to penal service contractors. The analysis made by the reaction to the video made herein clearly shows that the unfortunate and reprehensible conduct of the judges played a major role in the scandal that ruined the lives of thousands of children. However, as carefully argued, corruption alone is not the culprit for the unfortunate set of circumstances. The juvenile criminal justice system in Pennsylvania engendered critical flaws. It is this flaws that enabled and even encouraged the corrupt conduct of the judges who abused thousands of children for years before they were finally caught . Dealing with corruption is therefore only part of the solution to the problem discussed in the film. 


Giannatasio, N. A., & Pennington, M. S. (2015). The Sins of the Fathers: “Kids for Cash,” Absolute Judicial Immunity, and Administrative Acts.  J Pol Sci Pub Aff 3 (162), 2332-0761 

Mears, D. P., Pickett, J. T., & Mancini, C. (2015). Support for balanced juvenile justice: Assessing views about youth, rehabilitation, and punishment.  Journal of quantitative criminology 31 (3), 459-479 

Monahan, K., Steinberg, L., & Piquero, A. R. (2015). Juvenile justice policy and practice: A developmental perspective.  Crime and justice 44 (1), 577-619 

Weston, B. (2016). Balancing Rehabilitation and Punishment: Combing Juvenile Court Waiver Mechanisms to Create a Balanced Justice System.  Am. Crim. L. Rev. 53 , 235 

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