The Arizona Republic
August 8, 1976
Ex-Convict's Drills Treat Causes of Addiction
by Richard Morin
A drug rehabilitation program founded 10 years ago in the Arizona State Prison by a four-time loser may help Phoenix addicts cut the chemical and psychological ties that bind them to their habits.
Willie Benitez founded Narconon in 1966 with 20 fellow convicts. The nonprofit organization has since expanded to 37 chapters throughout the United States and seven foreign countries.
In June, Benitez established the first Arizona chapter outside prison walls.
It was a bit of a homecoming for Benitez, 42, an Arizona native who spent 13 years in Florence prison for four drug-related offenses.
Since 1970, Benitez has lived and worked in California, where he helped establish Narconon chapters in six state prisons. The program moved east to Delaware in 1971 and jumped the Atlantic to London in 1972.
The key to Narconon's drug rehabilitation program is self-awareness, Benitez said. By teaching clients to confront their problems without drugs, Narconon treats the cause of narcotic dependency rather than just temporarily unhooking a junkie from drugs.
"The Narconon courses teach techniques on how to face life." he said. “Narcotic addiction is a disability. This addiction has stemmed from a multitude of disabilities that have become lost to the individual." The techniques are taught through written lessons and oral drill.
The lessons and drills are given in a series of courses taught in Phoenix by Benitez and another Narconon staffer.
Local staff are presently donating their time. Eventually they will receive small salaries, said Benitez, who works as a carpet layer.
The instructional materials are based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.
Benitez read Hubbard's book, "Fundamentals of Thought," while in prison, and its influence led him to found the first Narconon chapter. Scientology members helped finance and staff his organization in its early years, he said.
However, Benitez said Narconon has no formal ties with the Church of Scientology. He said he established Narconon as a California corporation in 1970 and will incorporate in Arizona.
"I definitely did not set up this organization for scientology," he said. "I set up Narconon for drug addicts, using the techniques of Mr. Hubbard."
More Articles from 1976: