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After a 5-year reign of terror from the bench, a former Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge, Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from a privatized juvenal prison system, in exchange for funneling children as young as 10 to the facility for long sentences for petty or fabricated crimes.  The private prison turned a hefty profit on having cells filled with “delinquents,” whether guilty or innocent or given a fair trial or not.  In the wake of the scandal the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the conviction of 4,000 juvenile detained at the private camps, owned by the eerily named PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care corporations.  

You know the privatization meme: the poisonous Reagan trope that “government is the problem,” and that virtually every democratic institution should be handed over to corporate owners.  We saw it most recently blossom into Blackwater and the private armies that caused so much havoc in the Iraqi misadventure.  As with any conservative meme, the facts don’t support the claims that privatization is more efficient than government – every try to get your cable guy to come over at a time you were actually there? – even assuming efficiency is the sole value to be pursued, and of course it is not.  Indeed, the facts usually show otherwise.  Most federal and state programs designed to help children and the poor, for instance, are run at a lower overhead as a percentage to budget than most charities, not to mention all for-profit outfits.  TANF itself is a case in point.  Most charities operate with an overhead of over 30% -- many with 80%.  TANF’s overhead is estimated at about 7%, a figure that puts virtually every charity in the US to shame.

But as always, conservative memes never sully themselves with reality.  They dwell in a Fact Free Zone, and are intended, instead, to tell a little narrative: in this case the story of the crackerjack PA Child Care entrepreneurs who promised to whip those juvies into shape, unlike the gummit bureaucrats and their liberal mollycoddling.  Pennsylvanians bought the vapid narrative.  As a result, 4,000 of their children were wrongfully imprisons.  The sins of the fathers visited on the children in the flesh.

The so-called “Cash for Kids” scandal is being deflected by the Right-Wing Noise Machine and Tea Party hobbits as an example of judicial corruption.   The conservative deflection is particularly repulsive in this case (isn't it always?).  Judicial corruption occurs.  And that’s why it is necessary to have institutional governmental safeguards in our criminal justice system, and our environmental regulatory system, and our educational system, and our financial system, and our utility system.  And that’s why privatization is generally a bad idea with respect to essential services and programs.  It reduces the checks on the bad motives found in any institution – indeed adds incentive to corruption by injecting profit-taking into the mix.  

Ciavarella, a believer in privatization to the end, insisted that the money he took was somehow “legal.”  The LNM only wishes that Ciavarella had been sentenced to a private prison, one run by people like PA Child Care.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    An imbalance between the rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics - Plutarch

    by Leftwing Noise Machine on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 07:03:28 PM PDT

  •  Privatization (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, JeffW

    I think it is wrong to say privatization is always good for the economy.  Say Medicare or Defense or Education wants to save money and contracts its services to a private company.  Instead of spending $1B,  the private companies bid the service for $900M. In order to profit,  these private companies will outsource the jobs to India for $400M.  Thus we have a situation of instead of $1B going to local economy/US only $500M will now go to the US economy and $400M will go to india.

    It was better for the government to have spent $1B and benefit the US economy as money will go around be spent on restaurants groceries, retail stores etc.  than only $500M.    

    In the end it would be better for government not to try to get savings because the US economy loses.

    Protect Democracy. Keep lying GOP out of the People's House.

    by timber on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 07:27:20 PM PDT

    •  I Too Think It is Wrong to Say Conservative Policy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is always good for the economy.

      Maybe even, "EVER."

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 08:50:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yeee-hawww! JUSTICE has been done! (0+ / 0-)

    Few things are as disgusting, horrific, immoral, and evil, as the powerful exercising unjust coercive force against the powerless.

    At the top of that stack of evil is any form of child abuse.

    This judge Ciavarella and his pal (another one who did the same thing) were guilty of child abuse on a scale that has only been topped by the Vatican child molestation scandal.

    They deserve to burn in hell.

    But between now and then, he is going to have 28 years in prison, if he lives another 28 years, to think about it.


    Hope that sentence serves as a ferocious deterrent to anyone else even thinking about taking bribes for unjustly sentencing anyone, especially children, to private prisons.

    Ciavarella can toast his good fortune (at not having been physically torn to shreds by the parents of the kids he abused) with his first of many paper cups of lukewarm water at his first of many dinners of bland meatloaf with reconstituted mashed potatoes.   And then he can retire to bed on a thin mattress on a steel or concrete bunk, and drift off to sleep listening to the heart-warming sounds of all the other inmates on his cellblock coughing, sniffling, and farting copiously as they do likewise.

    We should all mail him lumps of coal for Christmas.

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