The 2nd Opportunity Program was created by an individual whose life was turned upside down by a negative life changing event. Augie Ghilarducci was sentenced to 190 months in federal prison and ultimately served 13 years. During his incarceration he developed and taught courses to fellow inmates, participated in a community outreach program, and served as clerk in the Federal Prison Drug Program (RDAP). His lived experience is the basis of the 2nd Opportunity Program, five (5) courses that form the most authentic and comprehensive program of its kind. The focus is helping people move on from their past stumbles and turn a new chapter in their lives.
The program was designed to help those who are or have been:
Incarcerated and re-entering society.
Struggled with substance use disorders.
Justice Impacted Youth trapped on the wrong path.
We help affect these changes by providing tools, resources, and support rooted in our prior failures.
LEARN HOW WE CAN HELP
Choose your category.
When Augie Ghilarducci found himself in “the hole” in the federal prison in Sandstone Minnesota, he had nothing but time to think.
In the first 10 months of his nearly 13-year prison term leading up to being in the jail inside the prison, Augie had been angry and bitter, blaming others for his troubles and justifying the series of bad decisions he had made that led to his conviction for investment fraud. These feelings started every morning when he opened his eyes and lasted until he tossed and turned himself to sleep. He knew he had to change his attitude to be able to survive the situation.
As it turns out his 35 days in the hole turned out to be “the beginning of the beginning.” He reflected on his life, his mistakes, and how his greed had led him to this point. He also rediscovered his faith. An encounter with a new inmate who had been placed in his cell and threatened to take his own life, caused a series of events that awakened Augie to accept his situation. He believed that he could move forward and emerge from this experience a better man. When an officer handed him clothes to return to the general prison population, Augie was determined to use his knowledge, experience, and pain to help others by instructing classes.
FILLING A NEED FOR
Serving time gave Augie a clear perspective on the prison system and how desperately things needed to change. He saw inmates struggling to read, understand important legal correspondence, and perform essential financial tasks like budgeting, balancing a checkbook, paying taxes, and saving for the future. People were leaving the system woefully unprepared to re-enter society and build a new life for themselves and their families--- no wonder so many failed and ended up back in prison.
Augie started creating workbooks to teach financial literacy, employment readiness, and other crucial life skills to his fellow inmates. As the courses caught on, a prison staff member in charge of education, converted a big, abandoned area in the law library basement into a classroom and allowed him to instruct classes several nights each week. Augie used a 50-year-old IBM typewriter to create signs and prepare handouts.
Eight guys showed up for the first class, and once word got out, “Mr. Ghilarducci’s class” was always full, with a minimum of 30 students for the next 12 years. It wasn’t that these guys didn’t want to learn, Augie realized – it was that learning in the traditional sense didn’t work for some of them. His material and style resonated with them. It wasn’t long before prison officials took notice and gave the program their stamp of approval, eventually making it mandatory for those in the prison’s drug treatment program.
Augie had the opportunity to impact the lives of people outside the prison, too. The warden placed him in a community outreach program that allowed him to go into high schools, colleges, universities, and business groups to share the lessons he had learned from his ethical failures.
2ND OPPORTUNITY IS BORN
In July 2017, Augie was released from prison and returned to Chicago. Less than six months later, he was invited to Chicago’s Cook County jail – one of the nation’s largest – to share his story and teach his programs. In January 2018, 2nd Opportunity was born. Thanks to a series of events, Augie was introduced to businessman Dan Effrein. A recovering alcoholic who had overcome his own set of challenges, Dan believed that Augie’s hope-inspiring message would resonate with a broader audience and saw the need to make his programs available to jails, halfway houses, treatment centers, and juvenile populations.
In June of that year, Dan joined 2nd Opportunity as Executive Director and helped to refine the company’s mission: to empower those experiencing incarceration, addiction, trauma, loss, and other life-changing circumstances to break the chains of the past and build a positive new future. While Dan worked on building the business, Augie expanded and refined the program offerings. Soon he was sharing 2nd Opportunity’s programs five days a week in jails and prisons, substance abuse recovery centers, halfway houses, probation departments, workforce development organizations, and with at-risk youth groups.
Augie constructed a model called “Collaboration for Social Benefit” that provides life-skills training, facilitates specific career training, and refers individuals to meaningful jobs at a living wage. His paper “A Parallel Path” defines the opportunities available to acquire training and education to find better employment opportunities. He has also written a paper that was published in the American Jail Magazine titled “It Begins in Jail” about the importance of jails and prisons making reentry content available to help individuals prepare for release.
EVOLVING INTO THE FUTURE
As demand for the program grew, the company began to add new members. In addition to bringing on an outreach coordinator and communications director, Augie strategically recruited other men and women with lived experience who had overcome their past and made incredible contributions to society through advocacy, re-entry work, and criminal justice reform since their release. He invited them to bring their experience and passion to 2nd Opportunity as fellow thought leaders and program presenters.
COVID changed the model under which the company was operating. Augie got the dreaded calls from the places in which he was going to instruct classes. “We are locked down, check back in 30 days.” He went from being busy 5 days to waiting for the facilities to re-open. He had a friend reach out from Atlanta who invited him to visit to commit to helping 2nd Opportunity to utilize technology to expand way beyond Illinois. They traveled to Johnny Cash’s farm near Nashville where a professional film crew filmed and edited the material so it could be delivered on tablets inside jails and prisons, on smartphones and computers on the outside. A DVD series was produced to allow for group classes and availability inside the smaller jails in rural counties.
It is amazing that something that started inside a prison is today available in 17 states and growing. As we move into this next chapter of our journey, we’re humbled and energized by the work ahead of us. With so many people still struggling to get traction in life after incarceration, addiction, trauma, or loss – both in our own backyard and across the country – we’re committed to continuing to leverage technology to expand our reach and impact.
Every member of our team knows what it’s like to face crushing setbacks and come out on the other side. Now we’re reaching back to give others hope – with a plan.