By Kati Weis

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The nonprofit Second Chance Center is getting a much-needed expansion, moving into a larger building that will be able to accommodate 100 clients at once, twice as many as its old location. The move, the organization hopes, will help further reduce recidivism in Colorado.

Before the new building, located at the corner of Potomac and Second Avenue in Aurora, people transitioning out of prison would line up outside the old Second Chance Center building, waiting for their turn to get help. When the new building opens on Jan. 4, waiting will be a thing of the past.

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The founder of the Second Chance Center, Hassan A. Latif, says the move to a new building, which can accommodate 100 clients, was made possible by a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, gifted to the Second Chance Center as part of a capital campaign for the new building.

“They stepped up and gave us a grant of $500,000,” Latif said. “That’s what the community has said to us, that what you do is important, it’s valuable to the community as a whole.”

The facility will provide daily meals, clothes, job support, and counseling to clients. Because it is spacious, the facility can provide that assistance all while adhering to pandemic safety protocols. The facility is also next to Interstate 225 and a light rail station, so Latif hopes it will also be a convenient location for the people it serves.

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“We have folks coming out who have never had any experience with computers,” Latif said. “So, we have those basic kind of instructional classes that we can get back to doing.”

When Latif got out of prison 15 years ago, he started the Second Chance Center out of his car. Now he says he’s thrilled to see how important of a catalyst his organization has become.

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He says while the nationwide recidivism rate is about 50%, the rate is below 10% as a whole among those who use the Second Chance Center, and below 5% in some programs the Second Chance Center has developed with the Latino Coalition. The Second Chance Center says it has set the model nationwide on how to reduce recidivism rates.

Latif’s hoping the new space will make that rate even lower.

“I was blessed with an opportunity to do this work,” Latif said. “It is that important to me that I have dedicated what remains of my life to try to be there for folks coming back, and make that transition as seamless as possible.”

Working with Latif is Abron Arrington, who says he was wrongly incarcerated for 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He received a commutation of his sentence by Gov. Jared Polis in 2019.

“A lot of guys coming out, they’re frightened, they’re intimidated,” Arrington said. “So, to help people that are very vulnerable, with the work that we do, is extremely important.”

While Arrington was incarcerated, he studied physics and engineering, and patented his own flood mitigation system, which he is currently working to implement in flood-prone areas of the Gulf Coast.

Arrington hopes his work will inspire others he sees at the Second Chance Center.

“For me, this is not really just a job… the time that I’ve been here to do this, it means a great deal,” Arrington said. “I can honestly say, this is about the best job that I’ve ever had, and I used to be in the Air Force.”

For information on how to contact the Second Chance Center for help, click here.

For general information about the organization, click here.

Kati Weis