Seventeen-year-old Hillary Transue did what lots of 17-year-olds do: Got into mischief. Hillary's mischief was composing a MySpace page poking fun at the assistant principal of the high school she attended in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Hillary was an honor student who'd never had any trouble with the law before. And her MySpace page stated clearly that the page was a joke. But despite all that, Hilary found herself charged with harassment. She stood before a judge and heard him sentence her to three months in a juvenile detention facility.
What she expected was perhaps a stern lecture. What she got was a perp walk - being led away in handcuffs as her stunned parents stood by helplessly. Hillary told The New York Times, "I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare. All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing."
It wasn't until two years later that she found out why. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, two judges pleaded guilty to operating a kickback scheme involving juvenile offenders. The judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, took more than $2.6 million in kickbacks from a private prison company to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. Since 2003, Ciaverella had sentenced an estimated 5,000 juveniles. Conahan was accused of setting up the contracts. Many of the youngsters shipped off to the detention centers were first-time offenders.