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The origins of the Narconon
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The origins of the Narconon
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The origins of the Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program

On August 2, 1965, William Benitez, an inmate at Arizona State Prison jumped down from his double bunk in the old cellblock where he was housed and made the following notation on his wall calendar: “Decision to set up Narcotic Foundation.” He also circled the 18th of the same month, his target date to approach prison officials to request permission to set up a drug rehabilitation program inside the prison walls.

William Benitez,
Founder of Narconon

Officials denied permission for the following six months. Mr. Benitez’s request to start a program consisting of twenty convicted drug addicts caused concern to officials who feared such a program might pose a security problem (such programs were rare in prisons during that decade). Officials had little reason to believe that the request of a habitual drug addict and repeatedly convicted felon would result in one of the nation’s most successful rehabilitation programs for substance abusers.

Mr. Benitez persisted and finally assured officials the program was needed and would not pose a threat to the safe and orderly operation of the prison. After being allowed to start the program on a trial basis, he founded the NARCONON program (NARCOtics-NONe) on February 19, 1966.

Today, the Narconon program has spread from that one program in Arizona State Prison to include community programs in many states and countries such as Denmark, Italy, Holland, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Colombia, Switzerland, New Zealand, South Africa, Ghana, the United Kingdom, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Argentina and Brazil.

Until he died from a sudden illness in 1999, Mr. Benitez was a Hearing Officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections, the same system which once kept him under lock and key. Below, he tells his own story:

I started smoking pot in 1947, when I was thirteen. Then I went on to injecting opium and other drugs when I was about fifteen. I started to get into trouble and was arrested for various crimes, so I decided to join the Marines to see if I could get away from drugs. Instead, I ended up getting arrested on drug charges during the Korean conflict, received a military court martial and was discharged as undesirable.

In the following years, I kept trying to stay away from drugs. Sometimes I could stay clean for a short while, then I would go right back on the needle again. I carried the monkey for about eighteen years, and it cost me thirteen calendar years of being locked up. In addition to doing time in the Marines, I did a Federal prison term and also was convicted three times in Arizona state courts.

On my last trip to prison, I pled guilty on December 22, 1964 to possession of narcotics. Because I was being sentenced as a habitual offender, the sentence called for a mandatory fifteen years, and up to life. I remember speaking to one court official and telling him how I was still going to leave drugs alone and maybe even start a drug program. I remember his words so well: “The best thing to do with guys like you, after the first time, is take you behind a building and do you and everyone else a favor and put you out of your misery.”