A measure expanding the scope of a statewide judicial advisory panel cleared the Pennsylvania House with unanimous support this week.
The bill was crafted in response to the Luzerne County “kids for cash” scandal, where two judges allegedly sent children to privately-run juvenile detention centers in exchange for kickbacks.
The measure provides more resources for the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission (JCJC), which sets guidelines for Pennsylvania’s youth courts.
Sponsor Phyllis Mundy, a Luzerne County Democrat, says the legislation would give the Commission money and staff to collect more data from court systems, and to identify red flag trends, like increased incarceration rates for first-time offenders.
"So this bill would give them that authority. To collect the data statewide, analyze it and disseminate the information to interested parties who have a relationship to the court. And would be able to then say, this is inappropriate, what’s going on here?"
Mundy says the measure gives the Commission the resources it needs to track statewide data, and look for ‘red flag’ trends in juvenile court systems........."had they had access to the kind of information we’re talking about, and been able to disseminate that publicly, others would have been more aware and more apt to signal to legislators or to the governor’s office or to someone who could have been active in preventing the situation that occurred here."
Mundy says increased incarceration rates for first-time offenders and an uptick in the number of defendants going to trial without lawyers are two examples of data that could lead to investigations. Both of those trends shot up in Luzerne County during the time the judges were taking bribes.
It’s unclear whether the Senate will consider the measure.