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Pennsylvania jail owner to pay youths $4.75m

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — A federal judge has approved a $4.75 million settlement between the owner of detention centers at the center of a Pennsylvania juvenile-justice scandal and youths sent to his facilities by a corrupt judge.

Robert Powell was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in the scandal that became known as ‘‘kids for cash,’’ a kickback scheme that led the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of thousands of juveniles.

The businessman testified that he was forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to then-Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan in return for their support of his two private juvenile facilities.


The settlement agreement, approved Monday, covers at least 2,400 juveniles who appeared before Ciavarella from January 2003 to May 2008.

Prosecutors said Ciavarella ordered youths to detention for a wide range of relatively minor infractions, thus helping to fill the beds of Powell’s PA Child Care and its sister facility, Western PA Child Care.

Ciavarella and Conahan are serving lengthy prison terms in connection with the scandal. Youths who were victimized by the scheme have until Oct. 5 to submit a claim.

The juveniles previously reached a $2.5 million settlement with PA Child Care, Western PA Child Care, and another company. The builder of the facilities, Robert K. Mericle, who paid the judges more than $2 million, agreed in 2011 to pay more than $17 million to the juveniles and their families.

Associated Press