Posted by: mutantpoodle | February 14, 2009

The Halls of Justice

Two trips through the justice system.

First, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is going full speed ahead in his quest for justice against hardened criminal Michael Phelps. Lott, who seems determined to up his jackass quotient by the day, is certainly getting his 15 minutes of fame. Not sure what to say about this – and all the attendant fuss that I talked about before – but the Seth Myers takedown here covers most of it.And then there’s this:

At worst, Hillary Transue thought she might get a stern lecture when she appeared before a judge for building a spoof MySpace page mocking the assistant principal at her high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She was a stellar student who had never been in trouble, and the page stated clearly at the bottom that it was just a joke.

Instead, the judge sentenced her to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment.

She was handcuffed and taken away as her stunned parents stood by.

“I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare,” said Hillary, 17, who was sentenced in 2007. “All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”

The answers became a bit clearer on Thursday as the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

Now, normally I think that mandatory minimum sentences – like the ones that disproportionately punish people for using crack cocaine as opposed to the, um, whiter powdered version – are ineffective feel-good tough on crime measures that do nothing but crowd our prisons with people who shouldn’t be incarcerated in the first place.

In the case of the judges above, I’m not sure when I’ll be ready for these pathetic excuses for human beings back on the street. While their deals call for over seven years in prison, I think they should stay there a bit longer – how about for as long as the combined sentences of every juvenile they railroaded into the private detention centers that paid them?

Oh, and as for the men who paid them off? I’m sure there’s a cell nearby that would hold your cowardly selves just fine as well.

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