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Pennsylvania judges get kickbacks to send children to detention centres

Robert Mericle in Scranton, Pa., after being sentenced to a year in prison. (AP Photo/Scranton Times-Tribune, Michael J. Mullen)

Robert Mericle in Scranton, Pa., after being sentenced to a year in prison. (AP Photo/Scranton Times-Tribune, Michael J. Mullen)

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The last major figure in Pennsylvania's "Kids for Cash" scandal has been sentenced. The scandal involved judges receiving kickbacks in exchange for sending children to for-profit, private juvenile detention centres. Thousands of children were caught in the scandal. But luckily, their situation was brought to the attention of Pennsylvania's Juvenile Law Center.

On Friday, a juvenile facility developer, builder Robert Mericle, was sentenced for his role in the affair. He received a year in prison. The two judges involved -- Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan-- have already received lengthy sentences.

Marsha Levick (left) and Hillary Transue (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
"We became aware about the constitutional violations going on in [Judge] Ciavarella's courtroom through Hillary Transue's case, through a phone call from her mother, who alerted us to very significant violations of her rights." Marsha Levick, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel of the Juvenile Law Center, tells Carol. The centre helped expose the truth.

In 2007, Ms. Transue was 14 when she created a parody MySpace page about her school's vice-principal. She appeared before Judge Ciavarella, and before she was able to tell her side of the story, she was sentenced to three months in a juvenile detention centre.

"I was livid and I wasn't a bad kid and part of me knew that... I very quickly realized that people believed in me. Juvenile Law Center was so supportive, they had such an amazing impact on my life, and they turned me into a survivor instead of a victim," Hillary Transue tells Carol.

Hear Carol's full interview with Marsha Levick and Hillary Transue by selecting the "Listen" button.

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