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Narconon - The History

Narconon was originally established on August 2, 1965 in the State of Arizona Prison by an inmate called, William Benitez. Benitez made a notation on his wall calendar: “Decision to set up Narcotic Foundation.” At the same time he also circled the 18th of the same month, this date was the date that he decided he would approach the  prison officials to request permission to establish a drug rehabilitation programme within the prison.

The first request from Mr. Benitez to start a rehabilitation programme was to consist of twenty convicted drug addicts. This initial request was turned down by the prison officials on the grounds that such a program may cause a security problem (drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes were rare in prisons during that decade). 

Over the following six months Mr. Benitez was able to convince the prison officials that a rehabilitation program was needed and would not pose a security threat or disrupt the day to day operations of the prison.

Permission was finally granted on a trial basis, and on February 19, 1966 Benitez founded the NARCONON programme.

Due to the success of the program Narconon has spread from that one trail in the Arizona State Prison and has expanded to include community rehabilitation programmes in many states throughout the USA, and countries such as Denmark, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Spain, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, Switzerland, New Zealand, South Africa, Ghana, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Argentina , Brazil and of course The united kingdom.

Until Benitez’s death in 1999, he served as a Hearing Officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections, ironically the same institution which once kept him interned under lock and key.

William Benitez, tells his own story of how it all began:

How Narconon began

"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 programme. 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 favour and put you out of your misery.”

My attorney arranged for me to go before the judge just before Christmas, feeling that the spirit of the holiday might be in my favour. It may have worked. I made my plea to the judge telling him of all the attempts I had made over the years to stop using drugs, such as joining the Marines, committing myself to hospitals for psychiatric care and therapy on several occasions, isolating myself in mining towns in a personal attempt to kick the habit, and even how two marriages had not helped me straighten up. I told him that in spite of all those failures, I was still going to make it and was going to find a solution to my problem, that I had not yet quit. He must have believed there was still a spark of hope for me. He sentenced me to the mandatory fifteen years, but instead of running it to life, he made the term fifteen to sixteen years.

After arriving at prison, a friend of mine gave me some reading material to keep me occupied while I was in the Orientation Cellblock pending transfer to general population. Among the material was an old, tattered book, Fundamentals of Thought, by L. Ron Hubbard. I had heard of his writings when I previously served a ten-year sentence at Arizona State Prison, but had never read them. I had always been an avid reader of books dealing with human behaviour. Yet, this small book impressed me more than anything else I had ever read before. I read it over and over and then purchased additional books by Mr. Hubbard and studied them very carefully during the following year, even into the late hours of the night in my cell.

The material identified human abilities and their development. I was amazed I had never run across such workability within a multitude of other works I had studied over the years. I’m not a gullible person when it comes to accepting new or different approaches or ideas. If they work, fine. Otherwise, throw them out the window. They either work or they don’t. I was tired of experimenting with so many ideas and philosophies, many having credence only because some “authority” had written them.

What impressed me the most about [Hubbard’s] materials was that they concentrated not only on identifying abilities, but also on methods (practical exercises) by which to develop them. I realised that drug addiction was nothing more than a “disability,” resulting when a person ceases to use abilities essential to constructive survival.

I found that if a person rehabilitated and applied certain abilities, that person could persevere toward goals set, confront life, isolate problems and resolve them, communicate with life, be responsible and set ethical standards, and function within the band of certainty.

I finally realised I had developed the essential abilities needed to overcome my drug problem. Feeling myself on safe ground, I knew I had to make this technology available to other addicts in the prison. I thought back over the years of all the junkies I had shot up with, and remembered their most treasured conversation, “One of these days I’m going to quit.” I had found the means and was going to share it with them. That’s when I made the decision real by writing it down on my calendar page in my cell.

So effective was the technology I had learned, that I experienced a freedom long lost to me. The tall prison walls became only temporary barriers. I realised that my 6x8 foot cell was all that I needed as a command post. Even back then, I knew Narconon would reach international proportions, and even wrote an article on it in 1967, “The Purpose of Narconon.”

The programme was sanctioned by the warden, and it soon began to expand from its original twenty members. I then started to get requests from non-addict inmates who wanted to get into Narconon. They told me they were impressed with what Narconon students had told them about the programme and what the technology taught. I approached the Administration for permission to include non-addicts. At first it resisted, saying that non-addict members didn’t need the services of Narconon, and that they might disrupt the programme.

I demonstrated to officials that any person, inmate or otherwise, could benefit from Narconon because its attention was on increasing abilities, that we had an ethics mechanism built into the programme, and that the responsibility and involvement required of a member would soon dissuade anyone not serious about improvement. I convinced the prison officials. The programme met its expectations so well that seven months after the beginning of Narconon, I was asked to start another programme for young offenders housed in the annex outside the prison walls.

I then wrote to Mr. Hubbard about Narconon. He and his organizations supported our programme by donating books, tapes and course materials. We received hundreds of letters from throughout the world validating our efforts to make drug addiction and criminal or illegal behaviour a thing of the past in our lives."

Within a few months of establishing the Narconon programme, William Benitez researched his court conviction and found that he had been tried under the wrong statute and his sentence exceeded that under the prescribed by law.

Benitiz was returned to court for re-sentencing and was advised that based on his eighteen months already served and because of the miscarriage of justice he may be released.


The Narconon programme was still in its early days and Mr. Benitez believed that if he did not return to prison the programme would collapse.

Rather than see the Narconon  program collapse in his absence, he refrained from petitioning for his immediate release, instead requesting a reduced sentence which would allow him time  to fully implement the Narconon programme development.

Subsequently, the Court re-sentenced him to four to six years, leaving him with only sixteen months to serve.

Mr. Benitez returned to prison and continued to developed the programme to its full capacity.

As he states, “It was the best, but toughest decision I ever made in my life. I would have loved to walk away from that court a free man.”

The success of the Narconon programme came to the attention of the public when news reporters from the Arizona Daily Star were granted permission from the prison warden to conduct an interview with the “inmate who requested to be returned back to prison”.

In August 1966  the Arizona Daily Star printed a two-part series on the Narconon programme, and shortly afterwards TV Channel 10 News from Phoenix was allowed inside the prison to film an interview with Mr. Benitez, and other prisoners on the Narconon programme, and to observe its functions.

In October 1967 Mr. Benitez completed his prison sentence and was released . He relocated to California where he continued to expand the Narconon organization with the view of making it accessible to drug and alcohol addicts who wanted to end their addictions.

Mr. Hubbard and his organizations supported the effort of Mr Benitez, resulting in worldwide expansion.

Years later, Mr. Benitez returned to Arizona and was hired as Inmate Liaison by former Arizona Department of Corrections Director, Ellis McDougall, in 1981. Until his death in 1999, he served as a Hearing Officer on inmate complaints for the Corrections Director at Central Headquarters”.

Get Help now at Narconon UK:

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Grange Court, Maynard’s Green

Heathfield, East Sussex TN21 0DJ

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