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San Diego's tough-love Second Chance program gets ex-convicts ready for jobs

October 14, 2009 |  8:17 am


As the unemployment rate soars, Scott Silverman is trying to get ex-convicts ready to find jobs in San Diego County.

The Second Chance program uses a tough-love approach to prepare its students for what Silverman, the founder and executive director, calls the crucial eight seconds when a job applicant first meets a potential boss.

Silverman is relentless in his questioning of students. "You're not sure, you can't even look me in the eye," he says when one flubs an easy question about why he wants a job.

Second Chance began 16 years ago on small donations in a rundown building. Now, its permanent home is a spacious former government building in the racially diverse neighborhood of Encanto. Temporarily, the program has relocated to Chula Vista while the building is being remodeled to accomodate more students and more classrooms.

Silverman and his supporters believe his program could be an answer to the state's sky-high recidivism rate among ex-offenders, particularly with the state on the verge of releasing thousands of  prisoners without supervision in an effort to relieve overcrowding.

Prisons, Silverman says, have been a dismal failure in getting inmates ready to re-enter society and avoid returning to crime.

"You can't rehabilitate a guy living with a guy named Bubba," Silverman says. "You have to wait until he gets out, gets away from Bubba."

Click here for the full story on San Diego's Second Chance program.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Scott Silverman and the Second Chance philosophy. Credit: Los Angeles Times / Don Bartletti