San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 21, 2002
By Enrique García Sánchez
TIJUANA – About 100 female legislators from the United States will visit the state prison in Ensenada today to see firsthand the results of a program for drug-addicted inmates.
According to a recent study conducted by Baja California’s state university, recidivism among the prisoners dropped from 75 percent to 9.5 percent between 1995 and 2001. In that period, of 1,682 inmates who were released, only 196 returned to jail or prison for committing a crime in the state.
The program’s strategy is to get the addicts to understand and then overcome the personal problems that led them to abuse drugs.
The program begins with a detoxification process that uses sauna baths, massages, vitamins and proteins to reduce the biochemical effects of the drugs. No medications are used – not even methadone, a drug that reduces the symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
The program at the Ensenada prison was deemed so successful that it was approved for use two years ago at the state penitentiary in Tijuana. That program was suspended, however, during the recent transfer of prisoners to a new facility at El Hongo, in La Rumorosa.
Since it began in 1995, the Second Opportunity program has attracted visitors from the United States and other countries. Judge Baltazar Garzón, who presided over the trial of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Spain, recently traveled with other visitors to Ensenada and Tijuana to observe the program.
The program could be heading next to a prison in Colima, and the Guatemalan government has expressed an interest in it, said Francisco Iribe Paniagua, a program representative in Latin America.
“I believe the program works and could work for any drug-addicted person,” said Iribe, a former police chief of the Baja California capital of Mexicali and former director of the state agency that operates the prisons and tries to rehabilitate inmates.
The National Foundation of Women Legislators, which counts among its members Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been meeting in San Diego this week. About 100 of those on hand plan to travel to Ensenada today.