In the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, efforts intensified to safeguard children in schools. In Luzerne County, Pa., that effort was spearheaded by juvenile court Judge Mark Ciavarella, who sent more than 3,000 children to privately owned detention centers, often without legal representation or trial. Their transgressions were predominantly non-violent, but the terms they received often ranged up to years in duration.
The scandal was dubbed "Kids for Cash" when it was revealed that Ciavarella and former Judge Michael Conahan received $2.8 million in so-called "finders fees" from a for-profit juvenile detention center, in return for helping to fill its cells.
A new film, "Kids for Cash," opens on Friday in Philadelphia. Director and producer Robert May discussed the case and the project with WHYY's Dave Heller.