Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Mimi Silbert, Delancey Street Foundation

Apr 27, 2010

In Episode #10, Mimi Silbert, President and CEO of the Delancey Street Foundation, discusses the unique Delancey Street rehabilitation model, the success of Delancey Street’s businesses, her attempts to partner with the state to reform the California prison system, the need for political leadership on criminal justice issues, and more.

Silbert Interview Highlights

Silbert on the Goals of Delancey Street’s Training Schools:

“Most of our training schools … the first reason of their existence is to teach our people to interact positively with people they have never interacted with, regular straight middle class America, people they are terrified of; and secondly to teach regular straight middle class America that this is what a dope fiend ex-convict – who you think should be either put away for the rest of his life or killed – this is what he can change and become.”

Silbert on Options for Dealing with Criminal Offenders:

“I am going to describe two options. One option: you get put somewhere where you don’t have to work, where you don’t learn anything, where the government – the taxpayer – pays $40,000 to $50,000 dollars. Here’s the second option: the government pays nothing, you have to wake up at 7:00 am, you have to work eight hours a day, you must get educated, you must volunteer in the community … Which would you rather see?”

Silbert on Her Message to Offenders:

“Don’t expect society to take care of you because you screwed up – in fact it’s the opposite: earn back your place in society, be decent and then you won’t be a criminal or a dope fiend in fact you’ll be a tax paying person who respects your society and contributes to it …You want to stop them, bring them, teach them, change them, make their values strong, old fashioned, be accountable, work ethic, work hard, earn your way … Every politician can explain that and we can turn this thing around. It is not unfixable – it just takes guts.”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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