Criminon Second Chance

What is Criminon Second Chance?

The Criminon Second Chance program is a sister program to the controversial drug rehab program, Narconon, based on the tenets of Scientology and its founder, science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. While they claim to be unaffiliated with the Church itself, the centerpiece of their “treatment” deals with the usage of saunas and dangerous levels of vitamins - Scientology’s “Purification Rundown”.

The Criminon Second Chance program should not be confused with the Second Chance Act, an act of federal legislation signed on April 9, 2008 and designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails; Second Chance Ministries, a Christian faith based re-entry program that helps convicts transition back into society; or numerous other programs with similar names.

What's this about Criminon in Albuquerque, New Mexico?

In September of 2006, the program found its way to the Duke City, housing itself in an old jail facility on the city’s west side under the guise of rehabilitating low-risk offenders of their chemical dependencies. They managed to secure nearly $1.5 MILLION dollars in government funding - although how much of that they actually managed to wrangle out of the unsuspecting taxpayers is still somewhat of a mystery.

The organization’s controversy only continued to grow when it was revealed that a convicted former New Mexico judge had been hired to lobby New Mexico judges to refer inmates to the program. While many judges balked at the idea, some still bought into the act and sent offenders to this facility. But it turns out that Second Chance wasn’t living up to their agreement....

In December of 2008, it was discovered that Second Chance violated its lease by housing violent inmates and felons - acting more like a jail overflow facility than a drug treatment operation as they had claimed. In addition, they had made modifications to the building itself - installing a sauna for the inmates (as required for the Purification Rundown). Investigations were started by city officials, who came to the only inevitable conclusion - Second Chance had to go. They were served with a notice of eviction and given one month to pack up and leave town. Well, they left town, all right. They packed up and left in the middle of the night, gutting the facility and leaving not only an empty building, but a $672,000 bill from the city, state and the IRS for in unpaid rent, utility bills and tax liens. They even took fixtures that were part of the building facilities (not Second Chance's property) with them when they went. Local employees were unpaid and abandoned.

What did Second Chance have to say?

Nobody knows. The directors of the program, Joy Westrum and her husband, Rick Pendery, have been awfully quiet about things. Local news outlets attempted on numerous occasions to get answers, but they chose not to comment. If they’ve got nothing to hide, why not go public and actually answer the questions? Although, it is interesting to add, Ms. Westrum denied that Second Chance was a front for Scientology, even though virtually every aspect of the program came straight from the playbook of L. Ron Hubbard. Another interesting note is the claim that was made by Second Chance of a 80-90% success rate - a figure found to be grossly exaggerated by independent studies which determined the true success rate is far lower than Westrum and Pendery claimed.

Will the city ever get the money owed by Second Chance?

Good question. To our knowledge, the issue has not been raised to Mayor Berry - yet. State officials have also not stated whether or not they will pursue any sort of legal action against Second Chance.

Not a month after sneaking out of Albuquerque, the Second Chance promoters popped up in Hawaii, trying to sell their program to the state prison system. However, tales of the debacle in New Mexico followed, and Hawaiian legislators quickly rejected their offer.

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