Fresh from our "Unconscionable" file, the Miami Herald is reporting that former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted Friday of racketeering in a $2.8 million "kids for cash" plot to send youth offenders to for-profit detention centers owned by his friends. Grieving mother Sandy Fonzo went off on the judge, whom she blames for her son's suicide. Fonzo's son Edward Kenzakoski, an all-star wrestler with a chance for a college scholarship, was sentenced to six months in a juvenile detention center for possession of drug paraphenelia.
Kenzakoski, who was 17 at the time, had no prior criminal record, yet he spent months at the private lockups and a wilderness camp and missed his senior year of high school. Kenzakoski emerged an angry, bitter and depressed young man. He committed suicide last June at the age of 23.
Kenzakoski's mother says tha the never emotionally recovered from the experience at the detention centers. According to the article, Fonzo said, "He was just never the same. He couldn't recover." "He wanted to go on with his life, but he was just hurt. He was affected so deeply, more than anyone knew," she added.
After learning of the verdict against Ciavarella, who was found guilty of 12 of 39 counts of racketeering, she rushed to the courthouse to see justice. Instead of being handcuffed and led away, Ciavarella was released to spend time with his family before sentencing. To add insult to injury, he and his lawyers declared the verdict a victory, saying that he was not guilty of most of the charges, which sent Fonzo off.
"My kid's not here anymore!" she screamed. "He's dead! Because of him! He ruined my … life! I'd like him to go to hell and rot there forever! Do you remember me? Do you remember me? Do you remember my son, an all-star wrestler? He's gone. He shot himself in the heart. You scumbag!"
Fonzo let him have it and let everyone know the real consequences of railroading teenagers for cash. Fonzo is becoming a symbol of speaking out against the establishment. What this case highlights for us is the reality of the prison industrial complex, which requires bodies in order to succeed. Juvenile detention centers are a part of this system. Many of those bodies are black and brown bodies.
Fonzo's story also speaks to the lack of rehabilitation that happens in these spaces and how these often violent and oppressive environments change people, especially young people, in negative ways. It's interesting that in the video below, Fonzo says her son was put into centers with "inner-city kids who were murderers and gang members," as if that is who these children are inherently, as opposed to being made that way by the system. Where is the outcry over tough sentences and mistreatment in juvenile detention centers when it comes to black and brown children?
Read more at the Miami Herald. Watch video of Fonzo's outburst below:
In other news: Cam Newton: 'I See Myself as an Entertainer and Icon.'