Harrisburg – Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) today unveiled a package of reform measures to address corruption in the Luzerne County Courthouse affecting several thousand juveniles and their families.
“It is hard to imagine anything worse than what happened in Luzerne County,” Baker said. “What we announce today is a start to remedy injustice and to reform a system that lacks sufficient openness or oversight to prevent corruption.”
Joined by Senators from across the state, Baker outlined two major changes aimed at preventing this situation from happening again – mandating counsel to represent juveniles in court and opening more juvenile hearings to the media.
“Wholesale denial of counsel, or the casual waiving of the right to counsel, made it too easy to railroad these kids,” she said. “Allowing a neutral set of eyes access to proceedings will provide an additional layer of oversight.”
The second part of Baker’s plan is aimed at compensating the individuals and families victimized by corruption. Kids who received inappropriate or excessive detention would receive counseling, education, or other services necessary to try to help them make a new start.
A separate fund would be established for parents who paid out-of-pocket to cover treatment and court costs, housing and probation fees, and other charges stemming from improper sentencing. She indicated that federal money may be available to cover the costs.
In developing the plan, Baker said she asked a wide range of people in the professional community and the general public for their suggestions and reactions, including the Juvenile Law Center, the Juvenile Court Judges Commission, the Office of Victim Advocate and the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts. She added that the group will continue working together to develop additional reform measures.
“This legislation is aimed at two things,” Baker said. “We must provide a measure of justice to those who have suffered serious injustice, and we must prevent the possibility that such a perversion of justice could be visited on any courtroom in this Commonwealth again.”
- Statement of Senator Lisa Baker
- Statement of Lourdes M. Rosado, Esq., Associate Director, Juvenile Law Center
- Reforms and Remedies
- Luzerne County Timeline – Prepared by Juvenile Law Center
- Luzerne County Corruption Prosecutions
Contact: Jennifer Wilson