Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kids for Cash
Opened February 7, 2014 (Limited Release); February 28th (Nationwide)
1 hr 42 min

Director: Robert May


Review by Stephen M.

Kids for Cash is one of the better documentaries I have seen in a long time.  Well put together and informative by Director Robert May, the movie covers the judicial scandal in Pennsylvania that came to light in 2008.  In the scandal, two judges, President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan were accused of accepting money from juvenile facilities in exchange for their contracts with the facilities and imposing harsh sentences for minor infractions to insure the facilities were always fully occupied.

What I love most about the documentary is that the Director was able to get both Judges to appear in the film to give their take on what happened.  With the interviews with the family affected, as well as those involved in uncovering the scandal, we get as close to a complete picture as you can get.  The only side missing from this event would be the juvenile facilities builder that the Judges were dealing with.  While there were estimated to be over 3,000 families affected by the Judges, the sampling of victims that were shown gave us a good picture of what the different families must have gone through.

Overall, I would highly recommend this film.  These kinds of stories often gets buried after a few years if you weren't directly affected.  The documentary is a vivid reminder of how greed can corrupt and affect everyone, including our most vulnerable asset, our children.  It's also a scary reminder of how powerful the judicial system is in controlling your fate when you come before it.  Thankfully there are advocates for the people such as the Juvenile Law Center that sued against the Judges.  You can argue that giving the Judges an open mic in this film to tell their side is an injustice to the families.  But as mentioned before it is important to the storytelling of which the Director is quite masterful.  The movie will bring a tear or two to you especially when they review at the end the status of some of the children that were discussed during the movie.


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