KRQE News 13: Drug-rehab deal linked to politics, Scientology
(This is a hand-typed transcript of the news segment. I highly recommend viewing the segment itself.)
This is KRQE News 13 with Dick Knipfing and Erika Ruiz.
DICK KNIPFING: More than half a million dollars in taxpayer money has been allocated for a privately-run drug and alcohol treatment program for offenders.
ERIKA RUIZ: But our investigations find the rehab facility is nothing more than a thinly-veiled program based on the teachings of the founder of Scientology. News 13's Michael Hertzenberg is here with the story.
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: Erika, when you think of drug and alcohol rehab, you don't usually think of vitamins, saunas, and massages. And neither do licensed professionals. But a program like this is scheduled to open in September right here in Albuquerque, paid for, in a large part, by your tax dollars.
(Dr. William Miller, UNM Clinical Psychologist)
DR. WILLIAM MILLER: And it didn't take terribly long to find its roots in Scientology.
(image of B.C.D.C. West Side Facility on Jim McDowell Road)
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: It's called Second Chance, and in one week it will be down this road. A new residential drug treatment program in Albuquerque's old West Side detention facility. As many as 200 prisoners will go through what organizers claim is an innovative approach to drug rehabilitation. Second Chance claims near-perfect results - from 7 or 8 of 10 convicts recommitting crimes, to less than 1 of 10.
(image: 70% - 80% RE-OFFEND to less than 10% RE-OFFEND)
DR. WILLIAM MILLER: Those claims make me all the more suspicious, I think - that there are fairly outrageous claims well beyond anything that's been documented in the literature.
(image: sauna equipment)
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: Second Chance says the addicts will sweat out drug residue in saunas and through exercise, take vitamins and mineral supplements, and have inmates administer techniques on each other that look an awful lot like massages.
DR. WILLIAM MILLER: There's nothing that would be very persuasive to a scientist.
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: No one we've talked with, including scientist and rehabilitation expert Dr. William Miller, have seen any evidence Second Chance will utilize licensed or certified professionals.
DR. WILLIAM MILLER: They certainly aren't coming from a scientific basis.
(image: What Is Scientology?)
That's right - Scientology.
It claims to be non-religious, but Second Chance utilizes, quote, "discoveries", made by a man they describe as a humanitarian - a man named L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard is also the founder of Scientology.
(image: MH in the prison)
Scouring Second Chance's literature, prisoners wouldn't know that they're learning about Scientology, because there's no mention of it. For that, you have to read between the lines. It's not what they say - it's what they don't say.
(image: What Is Scientology?)
In fact, this Scientology publication touts its own drug rehabilitation program employing, quote, "vitamins and saunas" - a very similar program to the one pitched by Second Chance in New Mexico. Second Chance is renovating Albuquerque's old jail, installing saunas and fixing showers and toilets.
So where did Second Chance get its money? From you, and me. More than half a million dollars.
(image: New Mexico State Legislature)
Last year the legislature earmarked $100,000 specifically for Second Chance. But you wouldn't know it by reading the language in the bill. It is disguised for a "six- to nine-month long term substance abuse and alcohol treatment rehab program at the westside facility"
(image: '... six- to niine-month long term substance abuse and alcohol treatment rehabilitation program at the westside facility in Albuquerque in Bernalillo County.")
A search by legislative staff members shows the request for the $100,000 allocation came from the governor. A spokesperson for Governor Richardson denies it. That money is now parked at the Corrections Department. The $100,000 has not been spent.
Now we have learned that money won't be going to Second Chance.
(Joe Williams, Secretary of Corrections)
JOE WILLIAMS: We found that the program wasn't a good fit for the New Mexico Corrections Department.
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: And then there's another $60,000 the legislature authorized for Second Chance. The money was buried in a legislative appropriation for Highlands University.
(image: Highlands University)
So how did the money get there? Well, nobody really knows. But sources tell us the deal was brokered by former Highlands president Manny Aragon.
(Dr. Manuel Pacheco, interim Highlands President)
DR. MANUEL PACHECO: Nobody knows anything about it except that there may have been some communication, if I can call it that, or some contact, with my predecessor.
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: The interim president of Highlands says the money will be returned - and there are more questions than answers.
DR. MANUEL PACHECO: I haven't found anything about this program except that the money is there and that there had been some contact with the dean of of social work.
(Dean Alfredo Garcia, School of Social Work)
DEAN ALFREDO GARCIA: ... primary interest was in getting interns - getting graduate social work interns - and also to see if the school would be willing to do a program evaluation.
(image: School of Social Work)
The Dean of Highlands University's School of Social Work says, the way Second Chance was presented, that won't happen.
DEAN ALFREDO GARCIA: We only place students under licensed, credentialled professionals. And that would never happen.
Second Chance tells officials it will get clients through referrals from judges and the Department of Probation and Parole - but that won't likely happen either.
(Pat Murdoch, District Court Judge)
JUDGE PAT MURDOCH: I've told them that I have some very serious reservations about using the program, and until my questions are answered, I will not refer people to the program.
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: So who's behind Second Chance? That's the real mystery. Incorporation papers show the director to be a man named Rick Pendery. The web site shows Joy Penstrum. (editor's note: probably Westrum.)
But the driving force in New Mexico appears to be someone else. Someone you might be familiar with.
(image: John Brennan)
recorded telephone voice: Hello, this is John Brennan, with the Second Chance program.
Disgraced and disbarred, former chief district court judge John Brennan, a convicted felon himself for cocaine possession, is getting a second chance of sorts.
Brennan's telephone voice: Please leave a message.
MICHAEL HERZENBERG: We weren't satisfied just leaving messages, so we came to the Second Chance center at San Mateo NE - the address listed on their brochure. And what did we find?
(opens door on mailbox storefront)
A drop box.
(image: Robert J. Desiderio)
Our calls to former UNM law school dean Robert Desiderio, now lawyer for Second Chance, went unreturned as well.
The Church of Scientology says this is a secular program based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, that it encourages people to support programs like this, but the church does not support it financially. Erika, back to you.
ERIKA RUIZ: Michael, thank you. The $160,000 in state money will be returned to the general fund; it is unclear how much, if any, of the $350,000 grant from the federal government has been doled out.