Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, “You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.
If you recognize those words from the book “Holes,” you probably remember that Camp Green Lake was not on a lake, nor was it much of a camp. It was a scam. Young “juvenile delinquents” were corralled from the court system and forced to dig holes. They were told it was to build character, but the holes were actually part of a search for buried treasure.
The scandal emerging in the juvenile court system of Luzerne County, Pa., evokes memories of that Newberry-winning book by Louis Sachar. Two judges are headed for prison after pleading guilty Thursday to extracting kickbacks from privately run youth detention centers.
According to an Associated Press report, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre worked like an assembly line. Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given short hearings, and sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.
The fallout will be significant. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the youngsters’ records expunged.
By Peter Vieth