Kids for Cash: The Movie

A powerful new documentary about a juvenile court scandal that rocked Luzerne County (Scranton), PA – and the nation – premiered in Philadelphia this week and will be opening in movie theaters nationwide this month. Called “Kids for Cash,” the documentary tries to explain how and why two juvenile court judges accepted more than $2 million from the developer of a private youth detention facility while sending youths to that facility. Many of the youths were charged with minor infractions, such as fighting in the schoolyard. In a review, The Hollywood Reporter described the film, produced and directed by Robert May, as “riveting” and “a real life thriller.”

The impact of what became a local and national scandal is recounted in painful detail by several of the more than 3,000 youths who spent a few years locked up and have still not recovered from the damage. Parents who were encouraged to waive their children’s rights to legal representation also continue to suffer the consequences, including the mother of one young man who committed suicide after being released. And both judges are interviewed while facing trial for racketeering and other financial charges.

Beyond the problems in Luzerne County, the film shows more widespread failures in the juvenile justice system.

Attorneys with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, a Public Welfare Foundation grantee, helped expose the scandal and are featured in the film. The Foundation also provided some financial support for production of the film.

View the trailer here.


The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.

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