Delancey Street visits, interviews inmates at Sierra Conservation Center

Ramiro Mejia, left, and Richard Moten speak to inmates on Facility A and B at Sierra Conservation Center.

Ramiro Mejia, left, and Richard Moten speak to inmates on Facility A and B at Sierra Conservation Center.

By Lt. Robert Kelsey, AA/Public Information Officer
Sierra Conservation Center

Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) recently hosted Ramiro Mejia and Richard Moten from Delancey Street, a program geared toward helping parolees adjust to life after incarceration.

Ramiro and Richard are former inmates who were incarcerated in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and upon release completed the program at Delancey Street.

They spoke of their former struggles with gang life, drugs and alcohol, and an overall lack of civic morals. The message was one of hope and a way out if someone was willing to work for it.

They were very clear of the expectations of those accepted into the program, and that the only way to complete it is if the person wants to change.

Delancey Street has three rules: no violence, no threats of violence and no use of drugs or alcohol.

If any of the rules are broken, the rule-violator will be removed. There are no questions and no second chances.

Once removed, you may reapply to come back but you must start at the beginning of the one- to two-year program if accepted again. For all other rules violations, the person simply must do dishes.

Both speakers jokingly said they had washed “a lot of dishes.”

Delancey Street is privately funded and accepts no help from any government agency. Delancey Street is often seen as the “last chance” for those who have found themselves trying everything else, according to organizers.

The program is run by Mimi Silbert. The program is offered in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, New Mexico and North Carolina.

If accepted, the person is provided everything they need from clothes to hygiene items and a place to live. In return, they are expected to work in one of the many businesses Delancey Street owns.

Delancey Street has been supporting paroling inmates for over 40 years offering housing, employment, employment training, education, substance abuse treatment, and more.

If accepted, the offender can have no contact with the outside world, which they called a black out, period for at least 30 days. They will not be allowed to visit or leave other than to go to work or on an organized trip with other residents.

The organization’s mission is to correct the behaviors and thought processes which has led to continued incarceration and change the parolee at the core level so when they are able to talk or visit with family it will be as a healthier more productive person.

“The program isn’t for everyone. You have to want it,” said Mejia.

After their presentation was complete, they began an interview process for inmates who were interested. Fifteen inmates from SCC were accepted and will have a place in their program upon release.

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