Kids for Cash is a riveting look behind the notorious scandal that rocked the nation when it first came to light in 2009. Beginning in the wake of the shootings at Columbine, a small town in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania elected a charismatic judge who was hell-bent on keeping kids in line. Under his reign, over 3,000 children were ripped from their families and imprisoned for years for crimes as petty as creating a fake MySpace page. When one parent dared to question this harsh brand of justice, it was revealed that the judge had received millions of dollars in payments from the privately-owned juvenile detention centers where the kids—most of them only in their early teens—were incarcerated.

Exposing the hidden scandal behind the headlines, Kids for Cash unfolds like a real-life thriller. Charting the previously untold stories of the masterminds at the center of the scandal, the film reveals a shocking American secret told from the perspectives of the villains, the victims and the unsung heroes who helped uncover the scandal. In a major dramatic coup, the film features extensive, exclusive access to the judges behind the scheme. Now serving a 28-year sentence in federal prison, the former juvenile court judge at the heart of the scandal shares his ulterior motives, revealing that his attorneys never knew about his interviews for this film.

Kids for Cash

3,000 kids. One judge. The scandal that rocked the nation.


Apple TV


David Edelstein
New York Magazine

“It’s a huge story, and Kids for Cash provides a measure of justice.”

Alan Scherstuhl
The Village Voice CRITICS PICK!

“Stellar! Compelling and well-reported. Bring something you can punch, as you will be furious.”

Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune

“Heartbreaking. Impressive and enraging!”

Frank Scheck
Hollywood Reporter

“Riveting. A real-life thriller that rivals most dramatic fiction.”

Jeannette Catsoulis
The New York Times

“A shocking and impartial portrait of justice denied and childhoods erased.”

Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Magazine

“A gut-punch of a documentary. May is a gifted storyteller. The movie equivalent of a page turner!”



Contains Spoilers: A spirited kid and an All-Star wrestler. The summer before his senior year, Ed became part of the “party crowd” and began to drink excessively. His father decided to take matters into his own hands and, with the help of two local police officers, try to “scare him straight.” They planted drug paraphernalia in Ed’s truck and arrested him. But instead of the expected slap on the wrist, Ed faced far more serious ramifications.


Contains Spoilers: Amanda grew up with her father and struggled in school to overcome the social stigma of the single-parent family. When she was 13, one of her friendships ended badly, and the girl became verbally abusive. Amanda grabbed her, and a fight ensued in the school gymnasium. She was taken to the school office with a police officer and sent home from school, but that was only the beginning of the consequences.


Contains Spoilers: A loveable kid who had very few material things but loved to go camping with his family and help his dad work on cars. He looked forward to his first day of school, but an undiagnosed speech impediment brought unwanted teasing from the other kids, and Charlie came to dread it, struggling for years. When he was 14, his parents surprised him with a used red scooter that would change his life—but not for the better.

Contains Spoilers: A smart, funny and creative high school student who grew up in a stable home with both parents. Hillary always made it her goal to be the “funny guy,” and one day when she was 14, after discussing the idea with some friends, she created a parody MySpace page for her assistant high school principal. But despite the page’s disclaimer stating it was a joke, it would come with some serious repercussions.
Contains Spoilers: A child with a genius IQ, three brothers, and a single mom. He was only 12 years old when he was walking his little brother to a neighborhood school bus stop and got into a verbal argument with the mother of another child. Justin’s offensive behavior was reported to the school police officer, who promptly contacted his mother and set off a long chain of events neither of them could have anticipated.


Check out these resources to learn more about the juvenile justice system in your state, and what you can do.
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