"K I D S F O R C A S H"
One of the biggest courtroom frauds in U.S. history.
In a shocking case that was covered by ABC’s 20/20, CNN, and CBS News, among others, two judges were convicted of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from the owners of privatized juvenile detention centers in exchange for sentencing thousands of kids—some as young as eleven years old—to jail.
William Ecenbarger, a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk award–winning investigative journalist who covered the case for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now gives us the first book-length account of the scandal. In the tradition of true-crime legal thrillers from The Executioner’s Song to A Civil Action, Ecenbarger exposes a deeply compelling political controversy that ruined the lives of many children and ultimately led to the judges’ convictions on charges of racketeering, fraud, tax violations, money laundering, extortion, and bribery.
Kids for Cash offers an inside look at a legal system that is closed to public scrutiny, offers little or no oversight of judges, and allows children to be sentenced without benefit of legal counsel, opening our eyes to the twisted and haunting realities of juvenile justice in America today.
"A harrowing tale, lucidly told by a journalist with a good eye for detail. . . . [Kids for Cash reveals]
the deep gap between cherished ideals and harsh reality in a country addicted to
incarceration." --The New York Times Book Review
"The story is incredible: Thousands of children wrongfully sentenced to juvenile detention centers, many without legal representation and after cursory hearings, by two rogue judges in northern Pennsylvania who received millions of dollars in bribes from the private institutions’ owners. . . . William Ecenbarger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, has brought this stunning story to book form in a deeply researched, compelling tale." --The Boston Globe
"The worst stain (so far) on Pennsylvania, a state with more than its share of stains, is that of the Luzerne County judges who sent thousands of children to private prisons in exchange for millions of dollars in kickbacks. . . . Bill Ecenbarger offers a detail-packed, sickening account of the scandal and its
impact. Anyone caring about courts, justice or children should read it." --The Philadelphia Inquirer
“If only this were fiction. William Ecenbarger deserves our gratitude for shining the brightest of spotlights on a tragic, scandalous situation that brought pain and devastation to the lives of countless children and their families. Kids for Cash demands the attention of everyone who cares about justice.” —Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and former New York Times Op-Ed columnist
“A chilling account of how two Pennsylvania judges traded children's freedom for personal profit while the rest of the Commonwealth looked the other way. Parents will tuck their children in a bit tighter after reading
this true-crime heart-stopper.” —Nell Bernstein, award-winning journalist and author of All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated
“William Ecenbarger exposes Pennsylvania’s recent juvenile justice disgrace wherein thousands of youth were illegally sentenced to a private detention facility in exchange for millions in kickbacks for the
judges who sentenced them. His heartfelt, articulate outrage raises disturbing and critical questions about the destructive power of greed in our criminal justice system, and the legal and social systems that support it through silent acquiescence.” —Tara Herivel, attorney, author and co-editor of Prison
Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration and Prison Nation:
The Warehousing of America's Poor
“A gripping and inspirational ‘must read’ for anyone concerned about the health and well-being of children.”
—Liz Ryan, President and CEO of Campaign for Youth Justice
“A gripping story of judicial incompetence, a system that ignored it, and the thousands of
kids scarred for life—a story that begs for juvenile justice reform across America.” —Steven C. Teske, Chief Judge, Juvenile Court of Clayton County, GA, author of Reform Juvenile Justice Now
“An unimaginable story of abuse, greed, and corruption that also reveals the broader problems with our society's failure to protect some of its most vulnerable, powerless, and at-risk members—a critically important book.” —Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, New York University Professor of Clinical Law
“This expose of judicial indiscretion, greed, and money laundering reads like a thriller. The setting is the Luzerne County, PA, juvenile court system between 2003 and 2008, when two judges mishandled the criminal cases of thousands of children. After presenting a rather unflattering history of the
region, citing a ‘culture of corruption,’ Pulitzer Prize—winning journalist [William] Ecenbarger describes the background and criminal activities that form the heart of the case. The book is based on 200 interviews and reflects the author’s insider knowledge of the scandal, which he covered for the Philadelphia
Enquirer. . . . A solid, shocking work of investigative journalism, recommended for civic-minded general readers and students of juvenile justice issues.” --Library Journal