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San Mateo County Jail, CA

Choices Men's Housing Unit in San Mateo County Jail

Choices Community Service Projects

The Choices Program was one of the first replications Delancey Street undertook. We began in 1993 adapting our model to the San Mateo County Jail. While it is an in-custody program, we’ve been able to keep alive the basic Delancey Street principles. The program is housed in one male and one female housing unit and operated by staff who at one point in their lives made the same mistakes as the inmates in the Choices program. Started by Teri Lynch Delane with the help of other Delancey Street graduates, staff shares with Choices participants how they managed to make changes in their lives employing the “each one teach one” principle of Delancey Street. Over 190 inmates are involved in Choices at any one time. Program participants are held to the same behavior standards as Delancey Street: no drugs or alcohol, no threat of violence and no violence. The residents are clean shaven, have short hair and are well-behaved. As happens at Delancey Street, inmates are involved in community service projects designing greeting cards, t-shirts, dolls and quilts to send to shelters, schools and others in need. Every reward from working on community service projects to better food, more privileges, and having more responsibility must be earned through self-discipline, hard work, and caring for others.

Choices has been evaluated by County Health Department evaluators who found that inmates that graduated from the program were 3 times less likely to be arrested, convicted, or incarcerated after being released from jail. Retired Sheriff of San Mateo County, Don Horsley, who asked Delancey Street to help start Choices has praised program results, stating that Choices helps prisoners understand that they should not see themselves as victims and shows them they have inner strength and abilities and value as human beings who don’t need drugs.

The model of Choices is a prime example of how a good Delancey replication can exemplify the full circle of behavior. A 3 striker in the men’s jail, seeing his daughter in shackles in court, requested the Choices program. He stayed there three years after which time the judge allowed him to go to Delancey Street. He has now graduated from Delancey Street and is being hired as a counselor at Choices…

Related Media
"Tough love in prison" (San Mateo County Times, 10/11/10)
"Whatever It Takes" (San Mateo County Times, 04/26/03)
"It's a strict way of life, and inmates relish it" (San Mateo County Times, 04/26/03)