Founder of Second Chance Program Attacks Recidivism With Drug Rehab While Cultivating Self Respect With Inmates

Rick Pendery has spent the last 30 years working in substance abuse programs and feels that he’s got the keys to reduce recidivism.

Rick Pendery founded and ran a six year pilot of the Second Chance Program in Ensenada and Tijuana, Mexico as well as another pilot in for nearly two years in Puerto Rico. The Second Chance Program freed over 6000 inmates from the interminable treadmill of drug addiction that leads to more crime and re-incarceration. He has now successfully opened a 600 bed secure rehabilitation facility located in the vacated Westside Jail west of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

His road as a substance abuse expert began in the 70s when he worked first in a methadone clinic. But there he saw too many people walk out of the clinic, into the parking lot and buy heroin. This treatment was clearly ineffective. Looking around, Pendery came across a program called Narconon. This program he found to be very effective. Working with them for several years he became the chief administrator for a Narconon Program, in El Paso Tex. Later he was promoted to be the Executive Director for the program and eventually became the senior administrator over 30 Narconon programs in the US.

Narconon uses the Drug Rehabilitation Technology developed by L. Ron Hubbard. The program has a drug-free withdrawal step, a sauna detoxification step and an additional life skills training section with courses in communication, remedial education. Also, it has classes specifically designed to help the individual understand the reasons why he started using drugs and giving him tools to combat the urge to use drugs in order to live a drug-free life. Pendery feels that these steps together cultivate self respect in these former addicts.

Pendery started his first Second Chance Center in the mid 90’s. He explains why, “I saw two things occurring. Drug use seemed to be generally growing and the crime rate in many categories was increasing as well. The number of people incarcerated almost doubled in 1990s and because of this, the budgets for the Department of Corrections were starting to bankrupt our states. I had previously run a successful drug rehab program called Narconon, which was both effective in reducing recidivism as well as was able to scale up to where it could economically deliver to large numbers of people at once. I felt that this approach was particularly suited to the criminal justice system where they had approximately 80 percent of incarcerated offenders with prior drug histories. With over 2 million people currently incarcerated in the United States it’s been cost prohibitive for those offenders to get rehabilitated in that system. According to the US Dept of Justice, the stats shows that over 65% of those who have been incarcerated, within three years, return to prison. I wanted to bring a workable drug and criminal rehab program to the criminal justice system.”

Pendery found more ways to assist his communities as a real estate developer. He had begun that career in the late 70s, continued in the 80s and 90s, gradually becoming more involved in inner-city redevelopment. One such project was redeveloping a section of Los Angeles that had burned down in the Watts Riots. One of these projects was under construction in the middle of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. “Buildings around us were burned to the ground but our partially constructed three story affordable-housing project was not touched.”, Pendery remembers. “We had reached out to the community and provided many in the local area jobs, so they protected the project.”

About a later project, Pendery says, “I was one of the general partners on two inner-city redevelopment projects in San Diego, in which we took major apartment complexes in two of the roughest areas of San Diego and renovated them. We ran community programs to help regenerate community involvement and pride in those areas. On one of the projects we worked closely with the Muslim Community and in finding affordable housing for refugees from Africa. We took one of the apartments which had a recreation room, made it a prayer room and gave the local Imam the adjacent apartment with a private entrance to the prayer room. The apartment complex was quickly filled up with Muslims from Africa. The residents of this apartment complex were very effective in cleaning up the neighborhood and reducing the drug use in that area of San Diego. Their high ethics level permeated the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Pendery continues, “The other area, known as Bates Street, was an area where there were frequent shootings, drugs were rampant and it was the real Ground Zero for San Diego. We worked with various members of the San Diego community on projects ranging from Federal Express coming in and putting on Thanksgiving Day dinners, to the San Diego Charger Football Team and some of its players working in that community to help bring back pride and a sense of self worth. One Thanksgiving Day, our project was shown on national television, during the halftime show of a college football game, with members of the Chargers, the San Diego Padres baseball team and members of the local college football team working with the Federal Express piling up lots of turkey. We worked with various local churches and used the book the Way to Happiness, a common sense moral guide written by L. Ron Hubbard, in some of the programs that we were doing.”.

“The crime rate dropped from the highest in San Diego almost to zero and the neighborhood was revitalized. Business returned, other developers moved in and renovated the rest of the community. The only problem was that the really bad residents just moved to another section of the city and that area became the highest homicide and drug area,” said Pendery. “This is why I decided we had to work out how to rehabilitate large numbers of criminals and drug addicts while they were incarcerated. This is an opportunity while there is some control exhibited on these fellows that is currently being squandered by the government. Just look at the failure rate – 65% or more return to prison within three years of release”

Rev. Alfreddie Johnson is the founder and director of the World Literacy Crusade in Compton, Ca and the Mayor Pro-Tem of Lynwood Ca. He feels, “Second Chance Program is the program for the future as far as the rehab and restoration of dignity and self respect for former criminals, bringing humanity to the society. That can be done with that program. Rick Pendery is a pioneer among pioneers, rehabilitating the human spirit and restoring men back to being men.”

Three independent university studies were done that measured one outcome, did the released offender return to prison? Each of these studies showed that less than 10 percent of those who participated in the Second Chance programs returned to prison. At the helm of this program is Rick Pendery.