Mimi Silbert M.A. ’65, D.Crim. ’68

Can inmates who’ve spent years behind bars adapt to life outside of them? Silbert’s organization, Delancey Street, has proven the answer is “yes.” Founded in 1971 in San Francisco with $1,000 and a dream to help addicts, felons, and the homeless turn their lives around, this residential self-help program is now located in five states and has served more than 18,000 people to date. Graduates leave after two to four years with a GED, marketable skills obtained by working in Delancey’s restaurant, moving company, or other enterprise, and, most importantly, a powerful sense of hope. Drawing upon her Berkeley education and activist nature, Silbert believes in building on strengths over weaknesses, thus enabling graduates to become productive participants in society. Reflecting on her career, she said, “I have the best life of anybody.” Hear four recent residents talk about how they rebuilt their lives in a 2011 New York Times interactive.

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