CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Delancey Street Restaurant: Serving Meals and a 2nd Chance

From Delancey Street in San Francisco might look like every other successful restaurant in this restaurant-obsessed city, but the menu here comes second to the mission: providing felons with a solid first step on the straight-and-narrow.

Mimi Silbert, who started Delancey Street 35 years ago, explained that the Cons are fed, clothed and paid a small stipend, all from a general fund that also provides Silbert's pocket money: She takes no salary. Delancey Street prides itself on receiving no government aid, so everything comes from revenue or donations. (Brooks Brothers and Zegna have been particularly generous of late.)

In exchange for their basic needs being met, cons promise to work—hard. They put in long hours at the restaurant, and often at one of the other, smaller Delancey Street "business training schools," such as Christmas tree lots and moving companies. They also hit the books. Besides obtaining high school diplomas and college degrees, cons complete a liberal arts survey course designed by Silbert, which includes field trips to museums, recitals and ballets.

Delancey Street is the only program of its kind in the nation, Silbert says, and she's besieged each day by people wanting to copy it. There isn't time to answer all the requests, she complains. Besides, she designed Delancey Street on the fly, over 35 years, with help from experts, scholars, gourmets, friends. Occasionally, even a con's mother will donate a secret family recipe. It would take too long—a lifetime—to tell anyone all she's learned. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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