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Brooklyn Community Court Succeeds in Turning Lives Around

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A community court in Red Hook, Brooklyn has become a national model for reducing crime and incarceration and they have the statistics to prove that their approach to justice is cost-effective and, in some cases, life changing. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

In 1991, 19-year-old filmmaker Matty Rich released "Straight Outta Brooklyn" highlighting the rampant violence that infested Red Hook in the 1980s. The film may not have sparked change but one year later the fatal shooting of a beloved principal in Red Hook did.

As a direct result of Principal Patrick Daley's tragic death, Judge Alex Calabrese was put in charge of The Red Hook Community Justice Center to turn things around.

"Our approach is a problem solving approach. We have social workers on site to help us identify what's the problem that brought the offender to court. How can we address that," says Calabrese.

Their approach to justice is working. A 2013 evaluation of their work since 2000 shows the community court has reduced crime, lowered incarceration rates and saved more than $12 million. And Judge Calabrese holds up Tina Dixons as a shining example of how lives are being transformed. She was known in the streets as the drug-addicted prostitute in the pink wig and high heels.

"I just thought they were gonna find me dead one day," recalls Dixons.

But when she appeared before Judge Alex Calabrese at Red Hook Community Justice she felt like she was more than a docket number and entered court-ordered rehab.

"He asked me - did I understand what I was doing with my life - and no one ever asked me that before,' says Dixons.

Today, the 45-year-old who was recently honored by The Robin Hood Foundation, has been drug-free for well over a decade. She has a full-time job, she earned a bachelor's degree, she's almost done with her master's and a doctorate may be in her future. And when she married the love of her life, guess who officiated the ceremony.

"She is someone who has become very close to me because I've seen how powerful and effective she is in speaking to people about how anyone in her position given the right circumstances can come so far back from hell," says Calabrese.

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