This community is battling crime using jail as a last resort. And it's working.

Pauline Nevins considered getting a tattoo of her mother's phone number so the police would be able to identify her body.

It wasn't a normal thought. At least not the normal she desperately wanted to be. But in the throes of addiction, it made perfect sense.


All images via Upworthy/YouTube.

Nevins was addicted to heroin and crack cocaine and had been for over a decade. She'd spent time in jail but couldn't get clean. In November 2014, Nevins was homeless and living on the roof of a building when she was arrested.

Nevins had hit bottom. But a judge offered her a lifesaving opportunity.

He offered her a chance to go to treatment at a rehab facility. Nevins accepted, mostly to get fed and stay warm, but she quickly realized this was her chance to find the fulfillment and consistency she longed for.

Then and there, she made the commitment to save her life.

The judge who helped her get back on track was the Hon. Alex Calabrese, the presiding judge at Red Hook Community Justice Center.

Founded in 2000, the Red Hook Community Justice Center is a community court for civil, family, and criminal cases from Red Hook, a neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn, New York. Cases are heard by a single judge, Calabrese, who operates his courtroom out of an old, remodeled Catholic school.

Calabrese (center) at work in his courtroom.

Red Hook Community Justice Center is different from most courtrooms because jail and prison are no longer the first, last, or only options.

Instead Calabrese works with professionals to offer mental health treatment, drug rehab, community restoration projects (sweeping, painting over graffiti), and even support groups. There are also social workers on staff to help offenders find and access appropriate resources like GED classes and therapy.


This isn't just a job for Calabrese; it's a chance to improve lives and better the community.

"We give people the opportunity to do the work, but they're the ones that have to do the work," Calabrese told Upworthy. "And then I get to see the power of the human spirit in the courtroom because it's amazing how far people can come back and get themselves to a place where they're addressing their needs."

And the center is more than courthouse. It's a hub for community involvement. Residents can access housing resources, take classes and workshops, get information about community service projects, and attend community events.

The Community Justice Center, along with improved transportation and economic and commercial revitalization, have helped Red Hook, a neighborhood once dubbed "the crack capital of America," turn a real corner.

And many former offenders, including Pauline Nevins, have made the most of their second chance.

She completed treatment and became a drug counselor.

And she's stayed close with the judge who got her on the right track.

"Pauline is an amazing person," Calabrese said. "And I've always told her that she's in the best position to tell other people what they need to do, and to understand how difficult it is, because she's been there."

The unlikely friends even took a selfie together.

It sits at her mother's house. The same mother who used to fear every late-night phone call now talks to her daughter all the time — the same mother who beams with pride when she thinks of how far her daughter has come.

Because programs like this don't just save daughters. They save fathers, grandkids, neighbors, friends, families, and entire communities. They give everyone another shot.

See Nevins and Calabrese's story in this inspiring Upworthy Original:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less