WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — It was day two of testimony in Wilkes-Barre as a federal judge listened to stories from victims who say they were wrongfully sent to private juvenile detention centers by former Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, and from parents of the victims.
Ciavarella and Conahan were sent to prison for the scandal that revolved around sentencing children to private detention centers in exchange for kickbacks.
Yuliya Maksimova of Hazleton is one of the victims. She was turned in by her stepfather for having a marijuana pipe and then sent away for three months by Ciavarella.
"It's awful to know that someone so evil, I don't know how else to put it, can be in a place like that. How an evil person can have control over people's lives. There are so many other people that can put a foot in and just ruin the rest of your life for you," said Maksimova.
Her story, like hundreds of others, is being told over the next two weeks to a federal judge in Wilkes-Barre during a civil hearing to determine the amount of damages that may be owed to the victims.
Chantal Wolfe of Wilkes-Barre was sent away to PA Child Care twice and it's stuck with her.
"I'm sure plenty of parents just thought like, OK, they're going to go away for a little bit, they're going to get their stuff together, and then, you know, they don't realize that now you're stuck in the system. It's a cycle. They never let you out of that system because why? They were getting paid. Everybody was benefiting off the backs of children, and that's predatory if you ask me," Wolfe said.
Other victims say they're grateful to be able to share their story with a judge who cares.
"I actually feel relieved, like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and this is something that I have been going through, you know, trying to work at and recover from for a very long time. And, it seemed as though no one really cared on an individual basis about what had happened to us as children," said Connie Mialichko of Kingston.
"Just bringing back all the memories that you're trying to forget is difficult, Maksimova added. "I can imagine a lot of people probably didn't come because they are trying to put the past behind them and move forward."
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