Nevada lawmaker promotes prison program with Scientology link

AP, Feb. 11, 2003
BEN KIECKHEFER, Associated Press

Hoping to win support for an alternative drug treatment program developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, a Nevada legislator wants her colleagues to join her on a trip to a Mexico prison to examine the program.

Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, has proposed legislation to establish the Second Chance Program in Nevada for the state’s female prison population. The program relies on detoxification and self-betterment principles developed by Hubbard.

Angle said she has secured funding from a mystery donor for 35 legislators to take a March 1 day trip to Ensenada State Prison, where the program has been operating since 1995. The program claims to have lowered inmate recidivism to 10 percent.

The donor willing to pay for the lawmakers’ trip is an Arizona man, but Angle wouldn’t provide his name. She added that since the man isn’t a registered lobbyist, he won’t have to file a lobbyist spending report — so there would be no public financial record.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the tickets cost up to $235 per person, meaning the Arizona donor would be willing to pay more than $8,000 for the legislators to see the program.

Malkiewich said he sent a letter about the trip to legislators Monday afternoon, and all reservations must be confirmed by 4 p.m. Wednesday because Southwest Airlines is holding 35 tickets.

He said that as of Tuesday afternoon Assemblywomen Genie Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, and Valerie Weber, R-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sun Valley, had confirmed they’ll make the trip.

Other Nevada legislators were skeptical, however. A number of lawmakers said they did not plan on attending the trip because the funding source is suspect and they do not want to open themselves to criticism about accepting gifts or donations.

The Second Chance Program detoxifies inmates by administering vitamin and mineral supplements, massage and sauna treatments to drain the body of drug residue, according to the program’s brochure.

The program then includes an education component, followed by a self-respect component based on Hubbard’s text “The Way to Happiness“. The self-respect module also includes one-on-one interviews with a guidance counselor.

The program ends with a life skills component, training inmates on how to evaluate other people and how to change unwanted conditions of their lives. Inmates are then expected to take the program back into their communities upon their release.

Angle has twice visited the Ensenada prison, once with a group of women legislators, and another with Nevada Department of Corrections Director Jackie Crawford.

Crawford said she was impressed by the program and did not see its links to Scientology as problematic.

“They use parts of (Hubbard’s), you know, philosophy in the program, but it is not, in any way, faith-based, so to speak, in directing it toward Scientology,” Crawford said. “That’s my understanding.”

Angle said the program is not Scientology, but simply uses Hubbard’s teachings.

The Second Chance Program is licensed by the criminal rehabilitation group Criminon International, a child of NARCONON International, a drug rehabilitation program. Both groups employ Hubbard’s teachings in their rehabilitation efforts.

Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she doesn’t plan on making the trip, saying she is simply too busy to spend a Saturday on a legislative junket. She expressed reservations about the program’s merits, but said she’s open to hearing more details.

“It’s kind of ironic that we’re going to a Mexican prison to learn things, but you know, who knows? I’ll be looking forward to reading the report,” Buckley said.

Angle said her bill, which she hopes to introduce in the Assembly later this week, authorizes a demonstration project in Nevada. She said federal funding would be needed, and she’s looking for grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as from President Bush’s faith and community-based programs initiative.

“I’m pretty encouraged that the money will be available if we can pass this in a timely manner,” Angle said.

Angle said the program would give Nevada the opportunity to be at the forefront of new treatment options for inmates.

“It’s this program that Nevada will be on the cutting edge promoting, as far as we’ll be the first ones in the United States to bring this in,” Angle said. “And if we get the same results here as we’ve gotten in Ensenada, it sets up Nevada as the training place in the U.S. for this program.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday February 12, 2003.
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