Man In ‘Kids For Cash’ Film Dies

March 10, 2019

Charlie Balasavage was 14 when corrupt former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. sent him to a juvenile-detention facility.

He was featured in the 2014 documentary, “Kids for Cash,” about the judicial scandal, and director Robert May issued a statement about Balasavage, who died Thursday at 28.

“Like many other kids exposed to the juvenile system, if they weren’t using drugs prior to their ‘incarceration,’ many would be exposed to and begin using drugs during or after their experience,” May wrote. “This was Charlie’s fate. But at 28 years old, Charlie was that same lovable kid who remained optimistic despite the increasing odds against him in a world where many looked down on him.”

Balasavage was born Nov. 15, 1990, in Wilkes-Barre. A celebration of his life will be held on Monday, with visitation beginning at 6 p.m. followed by a memorial service at 8 p.m. at McLaughlin’s, 142 S. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre.

“Kids for Cash” examined abusive decisions from Ciavarella to place children in juvenile detention. Both Ciavarella and former judge Michael Conahan were charged in 2009 with shipping children off to for-profit juvenile detention centers in exchange for $2.8 million in kickbacks from attorney Robert J. Powell, who owned the centers.

Conahan pleaded guilty to his role in the case in 2010 and was sentenced to 17½ years in federal prison. Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 28 years.

May said he met Balasavage 10 years ago when he started to work on “Kids for Cash.”

“His parents unknowingly bought the stolen scooter,” May said. “The police arrested Charlie and he entered the juvenile justice system. Like most kids, Charlie didn’t cope well and was moved from one correction center to another. In total, Charlie spent 5 years in the system and was subjected to 8 placements.”

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