Saturday, February 14, 2009

You can trust a judge....right?

While my kids were growing up and figuring out how things worked in this world and in my home, they did things that were sometimes not so smart. Some of those things were even bad enough that they could have been in serious trouble if anyone had caught them. I’m not proud of them for those things but I still love them. It wouldn’t matter what they did; they’re my kids and I would never stop loving them because they had a lapse of judgment.

It happens to the best of people. Kids mess up. Teenagers mess up. Even young adults mess up. That’s how they learn.

I have a good friend in Oklahoma that is the perfect example. Her son was in his 20’s and got involved in some illegal activities and then got caught. The police had him nailed. There were video tapes of his illegal activities. He had no way out. His phone call was to his mother. She bailed him out and they went home.

When it came time to go to court, my friend drove her son to the courthouse. As they were walking up the stairs she stopped him. She said “Son, I love you. I don’t want to lose you. If you want to run, I’ll take you anywhere you want to go. If you want to go inside, I’ll stand by you no matter what.”

He told her he was guilty and he had to do what was right. They went inside together. My friend cried when her son put in his guilty plea. And she cried when the judge sentenced her son to 8 years in prison. Her son didn’t cry. He knew he was wrong.

She went to visit him every weekend for the entire 8 years that he was in prison. She told me it was the best thing that ever happened to her son. He was headed down a bad path and being caught and having to go to prison had turned him around. I saw him the day he got out. He looked liked a totally different man. A better man.

In my friends case what the judge (and my friend’s son) did was the right thing. He heard the case. He heard the charges. He gave a fair judgment. That’s the way it should be. If my friend’s son had been innocent and sent to prison anyway, that would have been wrong. But a judge wouldn’t do that would they? After the story I just read I’m sad to say a judge would do that. Two judges as a matter of fact.

Judge Mark Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan both of the Court of Common Pleas in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, have entered plea agreements of their own. They admitted to accepting more than $2.6 million dollars combined from a private youth detention center to sentence children to longer terms so that the center would receive more government money.

Teenagers who were sent before those judges for relatively minor offenses were sentenced to much longer times than necessary at the youth detention center. A 17 year old boy was sentenced to 3 months just because he was with another teenager that shoplifted. He didn’t shoplift; his friend did. He just happened to be with him.

Somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 juveniles received harsher sentences than was warranted for their crimes. That’s a lot. It’s an unbelievable amount to me. I feel so bad for not only the teenagers but for their families that had to be without them for no reason.

The judges have been relieved of their duty and charges were filed against them on January 26. I hope the judge that resides over their trials throws the book at them. I just can’t believe people that are supposed to uphold our laws decided to take advantage of our youth that way. It’s just a disgrace.


Dan said...

When I read the story, my first thought was that this is another reason Juvenile court needs to be open or there needs to be a third party advocacy group sitting in on every case. Juvenile judges make decisions that are not open to the light of day and should at least be evaluated.

Even my part time municipal judge has more supervision and outside oversight and all he hears is misdemeanor cases.

pammie said...

as a mom who has had to go through several court cases with her oldest son, i can feel the pain for the juveniles and their families. and as a granddaughter of a fair and good judge, my grandma and grandpa, i am APPALLED at the behavior of those judges. they definitely deserve to get longer sentences than they "deserve". as a matter of fact...they should sentence them and then bring them back in and tell them they made a mistake and they will have to endure 5 more years on to whatever sentence they already received in leiu of their idiocrasy! UGH!

morrow said...

It is so hard for me to understand how people can do something like this.

I am glad the judges got caught. That's the positive side of that story.

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