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Featured DVD Review: Kids for Cash

December 2nd, 2014

Kids for Cash - Buy from Amazon: DVD

Kids for Cash is a documentary about the Cash for Kids scandal, which took place for years before it was uncovered in 2008. Will this film be worth checking out for those who never heard of the scandal? Will those who have heard of it learn something new?

The Movie

The film focuses on President Judge Mark Ciavarella, who was was a juvenile court judge in Luzerne County, and to a lesser extent, Senior Judge Michael Conahan. We first learn about Judge Ciavarella, who was elected for a ten-year term as a judge running on a tough on crime platform, which is popular right away. Then when Columbine happens, his popularity soars. Then we are introduced to a number of kids, one as young as 12, who appeared before him in court on minor charges. The harsh penalties soon got the attention of both the local newspaper, The Times Leader, and a local civil liberties group, Juvenile Law Center, who independently looked into the judge. The film interviews a number of people involved in this scandal, including the kids, their parents, lawyers... and even Judge Ciavarella himself.

I must commend director Robert May, or whoever conducted that interview, because if I were the one doing it, the interview would have ended very quickly and ended in violence.

That's probably the best compliment I can give the movie. Kids for Cash is an infuriating film to watch, because the scandal is so egregious. What's worse is this scandal goes way deeper than Cash for Kids. Its starts with a Zero Tolerance policy for bad behavior. Zero Tolerance is clearly Zero Intelligence. The scandal is also part of a larger problem of for-profit prisons. This is probably the only major complaint I have about the movie. They really should have spent more time on the profit motivation that was behind the scandal. Other than that, this is a must see for fans of documentaries. Just be warned, there are times your blood will boil.

The Extras

There are 16 extra minutes of interviews on the DVD.

The Verdict

Kids for Cash is an incredibly powerful documentary about a problem that is wider than the Cash for Kids name would imply. There are not a ton of extras on the DVD, but enough that it is a solid purchase.


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Filed under: Video Review, Kids for Cash, Robert May