Originally created 05/16/04

New prisons deputy criticized



ATLANTA - Georgia's new deputy juvenile justice commissioner already is under criticism before he begins.

Frank Alarcon, who will start his $110,000-a-year job at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice on Monday, resigned earlier this month from Florida's youth prisons system after a teenager died in custody.

Five years ago, he was fired as chief of California's system after the state inspector general found mismanagement and sexual misconduct by staff members with girls at a youth correctional facility.

"A man with Mr. Alarcon's reputation is not good enough for Georgia's children and should not be welcome," said Rick McDevitt, the president of the advocacy group Georgia Alliance for Children. "He doesn't have a track record of running a clean system - a system not full of abuses."

Juvenile Justice Commissioner Albert Murray, who hired Mr. Alarcon, said he stands by his decision.

"I am aware of the criticism he has been under," Mr. Murray said. "I'm also aware he has a national reputation. I believe he is a man who believes strongly in treatment and rehabilitation."

Mr. Murray was named by Gov. Sonny Perdue in January to replace Orlando Martinez, who was hired as commissioner in 1999 to correct problems in the juvenile detention system that were cited by a federal report.

Mr. Alarcon, 52, will oversee eight youth prisons and 21 youth detention centers.

He resigned May 7 from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice after five years as second in command. The resignation, and those of several other agency officials, followed the appendicitis death of a boy who had pleaded for medical help for three days.

"I can't believe another state took this guy," said Florida state Rep. Gustavo Barreiro, a Republican who was the chairman of a committee on juvenile detention centers.

Mr. Alarcon worked for 18 years in California, the last three as agency head. He was fired in 1999 by then-Gov. Gray Davis.

Former California state Sen. Cathie Wright, a Republican who has lobbied to oust Mr. Alarcon, said he is an advocate of severe punishment at the expense of rehabilitation. At the Ventura facility where the sex scandal occurred, he ignored problems until internal investigators uncovered complaints of misconduct, she said.

Mr. Alarcon downplayed the criticism.

"Unfortunately, the media only picks up those incidents that are most dramatic. They don't see the whole story," he said.