Orlando Martinez, Georgia’s top juvenile justice official for the last four years and the highest ranking Hispanic in state government, has been fired by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The dismissal came six weeks after a troubled Augusta youth prison was put into private hands and 120 state employees lost their jobs.
Martinez was hired in 1999 by Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, after 17 years as juvenile justice chief in Colorado, to help fix what a federal report called “egregious” conditions in the state’s juvenile prisons.
The controversy over the Augusta Youth Development Campus seemed to be the major factor in Martinez’ departure. At his direction, a private company got a $5.5 million contract last month to run the prison, which has been cited for management problems as far back as 1998 and is the subject of an ongoing state investigation into allegations of illegal drug activity and sex between staffers and inmates.
The privatization drew criticism from the state employees’ union, advocates for children and area lawmakers. Martinez sticks by the decision to privatize the Augusta facility. “To make the changes that are needed within the existing structure and bureaucracy would have taken years,” he said. “Kids would have been harmed.”