Statement by State Senator Lisa Baker about the Kids for Cash Premiere

Harrisburg – Senator Lisa Baker offered the followed statement about the Kids for Cash Premiere:

“Kids for Cash is an important movie, for our area, for the Luzerne County court system, and for juvenile justice everywhere.  It depicts the terrible consequences when the proper balance between constitutional rights, fair punishment, and common sense is warped or waived.

Two judges, in order to serve their own selfish ends, damaged thousands of young lives.  For some kids, the harm inflicted was irreversible and irreparable.  By tainting the process, the judges also did harm to those who were victims of serious juvenile offenses.

The movie shows there were a few heroes in this tragedy, the parents who took their protests about injustice public, and the Juvenile Law Center whose lawyers relentlessly pursued their claims in the appellate courts and in the court of public opinion.  Local media deserve credit for making sure this did not become just another story of wrongdoing within a community quickly forgotten by the rest of the state.

Unfortunately, the movie does not take the story far enough.  The tremendous work of the state commission headed by Judge John Cleland deserves to be spotlighted.  These intrepid individuals, several from our region, probed the problems, untangled the web of wrongdoing, and developed a blueprint for reform, encompassing legislation, court rules, and changes in local legal culture and practices.  The bulk of their recommendations have been approved and implemented.  A wide range of community leaders, local advocacy groups, and new people in charge of the local courts have collaborated to change the culture and attempt to repair public confidence.

Even with these safeguards now in place, the best protection against any repetition of this nightmare is still public awareness, of how this corrupt scheme came into being, of how too many people in positions of responsibility turned a blind eye to it, and of how an overreliance on zero tolerance policies played into it. Here the movie makes its chief contribution, by making sure we never forget the high cost of corruption and injustice.”



Jen Wilson
(570) 675-3931

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