Albuquerque's Second Chance Center Stems the Tide of Recidivism

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When Albuquerque's Second Chance Center opened its doors in October 2006, it had a daunting mission: to stem the tide of drug use that leads to repeat criminal offenses and to a veritable revolving door in the criminal justice system. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than half of all released offenders commit new crimes for which they are re-sentenced within three years of release. A secure 600-bed facility, the Second Chance Center (http://www.secondchanceprogram.net) provides a long-term residential rehabilitation and transition program that has a proven record of success for substance abusers with criminal convictions.

A university study found that, of 1,460 released offenders, fewer than ten percent of those who had undergone drug rehabilitation returned to prison over a six-year period. This was in contrast to a recidivism rate of 80 percent for those who did not participate in our program.

When Albuquerque's Second Chance Center opened its doors in October 2006, it had a daunting mission: to stem the tide of drug use that leads to repeat criminal offenses and to a veritable revolving door in the criminal justice system. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than half of all released offenders commit new crimes for which they are re-sentenced within three years of release. A secure 600-bed facility, the Second Chance Center (http://www.secondchanceprogram.net) provides a long-term residential rehabilitation and transition program that has a proven record of success for substance abusers with criminal convictions.

According to Executive Director Rick Pendery, the programming used by Second Chance Center is based on a model that he successfully piloted for 6 years. "A university study found that, of 1,460 released offenders, fewer than ten percent of those who had undergone drug rehabilitation returned to prison over a six-year period. This was in contrast to a recidivism rate of 80 percent for those who did not participate in our program."

Today, over 1.9 million Americans are incarcerated at a taxpayer expense of over $65 billion each year. Research indicates that, over the past 25 years, entry into correctional facilities has risen an astounding 377%, with a corresponding budget increase of 600%. The trend shows no signs of slowing. In California alone, the projected state spending on incarceration over the next 20 years is $1.3 trillion.

The Second Chance Center's goal is to prevent those convicted from becoming entrenched in the system. "It's well known that substance abuse fuels criminal activity. When we are able to intervene with a program that will keep these people drug free, we see the recidivism rate plummet," said Pendery.

The cornerstone of the Second Chance Center is four modules designed to restore personal integrity and self-esteem: drug withdrawal and rehabilitation; education; self-respect; and life skills. The drug withdrawal and rehabilitation module involves drug-free withdrawal and working with the inmate to increase communication skills, gain emotional control, and accept responsibility for his actions. The education module is designed to achieve inmate literacy, while the self-respect component consists of shifting the inmate's moral compass and increasing personal responsibility. The life skills module involves teaching the inmate to critically evaluate those who have a positive or negative influence on his life and learn tools to help him succeed.

Pendery noted that very few of those who enter the penal system receive long-term treatment, which is key to lowering recidivism rates, and that judges are seeking alternative sentencing to fill the gap. "The Second Chance Center is both secure and effective in treating substance abuse, and represents a new paradigm for lowering recidivism," Pendery concluded.

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Jean Dale
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