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:

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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