Builder in youth jail scandal reports to prison

SCRANTON (AP) – A builder of for-profit youth detention centers has reported to prison for his role in a juvenile justice scandal in which thousands of young offenders were sent to his facilities by a judge who took money from him.

Robert Mericle reported Monday to a minimum security prison in Schuylkill County.

He was sentenced in April to a year in prison and ordered to pay $250,000 stemming from northeastern Pennsylvania’s so-called “kids for cash” scandal.

Prosecutors said two judges accepted $2 million in illegal payments from Mericle.

Former Luzerne County Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella Jr. plotted to close the dilapidated county-run juvenile detention center in 2002 and arrange for construction of the PA Child Care facility outside Wilkes-Barre and another lockup in western Pennsylvania.

They’re serving lengthy prison sentences.