[Illustration by JOHN COLE]

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:  A former juvenile court judge in Pennsylvania was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Thursday for his part in an alleged “kids for cash” scam considered one of the worst judicial scandals in US history. Mark Ciavarella Jr., 61, a former judge in Luzerne County, was also ordered to pay $1.17 million in restitution. Mr. Ciavarella was convicted in federal court in Scranton, Pa., in February on charges that he and a second judge, Michael Conahan, ran the local court system as a racketeering enterprise. The federal indictment says the two judges accepted $2.8 million in kickbacks from the owner and builder of two privately-run juvenile detention facilities. In exchange, the judges agreed to close down the county’s own juvenile detention center, which would have competed with the new, privately-run facilities. In addition they guaranteed that juvenile offenders from their court would be directed to the privately-run facilities. MORE

RELATED:  With an overflow crowd awaiting entrance to Courtroom 4 inside the William J. Nealon Federal Building on Thursday morning, more than a dozen people – each affected in their own way by former Luzerne County judge Mark Ciavarella, gathered on the sidewalk to await news of his sentencing. Among those gathered were “the Clarkers,” a trio including a young man from Pensacola, Fla., and two men dressed respectively as a Texas ranger and Chewbacca, the fictional “Star Wars” character. “Chewbacca,” who declined to provide his real name, said he went before Ciavarella at age 17 for a minor domestic dispute, his first criminal offense. The Plains Township resident said he was held for processing for three months at PA Child Care, the private juvenile detention facility at the heart of charges against Ciavarella,  before eventually serving three more months at Clear Brook. “I hope we never have to see him again after all the kids that he’s hurt through the years,” he said. MORE

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