Skip to main content

The Community Court Difference

Jackie Soto & Stephanie Lovett
As many readers of this blog already know, the Red Hook Community Justice Center has the privilege of hosting over 200 visitors each year (as project director, facilitating site visits is a significant part of my job).  Although their interests and objectives vary considerably, most visitors are eager to hear something about the Justice Center's core commitment to community engagement. 
In response, we generally talk a lot about the stuff we do outside of the formal court process, e.g., the Red Hook Youth Court, arts programming, the baseball league, and a broad range of community improvement projects.  In other words, when it comes to community engagement, we are quick to remind visitors that we are more than just a courthouse.  Too quick.
Jackie Soto and Stephanie Lovett have run the Justice Center's Alternative Sanctions Office (more commonly known as "intake") for over 10 years.  Among many, many other things, intake is the first stop for anyone sentenced to community, social, or clinical services as an alternative to incarceration.  And in a bustling community court like ours, that's a whole lot of folks.
Technically, Jackie and Stephanie screen individuals to determine appropriate services, schedule them for obligations, rigorously monitor their compliance, and work closely with the Justice Center's court partners to ensure the swift and fair administration of justice.  But circling back to this idea of community engagement, I want to focus less on what they do... and more on how they do it.
Heart.  If I had to sum it up in one word, I think that’s the one I would choose.  In a fast-paced department that demands constant attention to detail and court process, Jackie and Stephanie never lose sight of why the Justice Center is here in the first place:  to serve the community with care, respect, and dignity.  Somehow they manage to do it with every single person who walks through the door, every single day, despite the relentless demands and pressures of the moment.  Spend an hour or a day in intake, and you will see two professionals who take the time to engage, to listen, and to do what they can to provide meaningful assistance in the lives of folks in crisis.  And they do it in a way that is so genuine, so natural, at times even self-effacing, that it often goes undetected – except where it matters most:  in the lives of the countless individuals they have collectively served. 
Now that’s what I call community engagement.
If I was a sports guy (which after years of denial and posing, I can now admit to the world, I am not), I would probably compare Jackie and Stephanie to some athlete(s) who make something difficult look easy, etc.  But that sort of analogy doesn’t quite capture it, even if I had the knowledge and credibility to pull it off, which I don’t.  No, as much as Jackie and Stephanie have mastered their craft and do their jobs with an effortless grace, that’s not the quality that sets them apart.  I think it comes down to a deep-felt care and commitment to the residents of Red Hook.  I think it comes down to heart.
Hope this finds you well,


  1. My exact sentiments. It's the buzz all over the Red Hook community. Jackie and Stephanie are the same way even when they are not at work. It was a long time coming. Yay for the Red Hook Champions!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Rent, Repairs, and Rights: A Guide to Housing Court for NYCHA Tenants

Supporting the Staten Island Youth Justice Center at "Inside/Outside Legislative Theatre" Performance

On June 4th, a group of the Red Hook Youth Court members and staff went to see the "Theater of the Oppressed NYC" performance at the New School. Before attending this event, the youth court members had no idea that anything like this went on! While there, we learned that 12 different legislative laws were changed through something called "Legislative Theatre." The audience members get to be "spect-actors," which is great because the actual audience members got to participate in the play themselves and share their ideas.

The performances last night were put on by members of the Staten Island Youth Justice Center (part of the Center for Court Innovation Family). These two plays dealt with real life issues such as getting stopped for not paying your bus fare, arriving late to school and getting sent to the principal's office because of the "zero tolerance policy," getting into fights at school, not knowing one's rights, and being racially …

Thank You AmeriCorps Members

Last Friday we held a graduation for our AmeriCorps members, the last class of the New York Juvenile Justice Corps. Over the past year, the members have served throughout the Center for Court Innovation's New York City projects at various positions within our courts and community programs. They served as a bridge to the communities we work in, and provided valuable support to our projects and various initiatives. The members will be missed and we wish them the best in all their future endeavors.

Jessica Colon
Deputy Project Director

Standing Room Only at the Graduation
Declan Walsh, Director of the John Jay College Office of Community Outreach, presents Al Siegal and Jessica Colon with a plaque in recognition of the Center for Court Innovation's partnership with the college.
Members from the Brownsville Community Justice Center Receive their Certificates
Members from the Crown Heights Mediation Center Receive their Certificates
Staff and Members from the Harlem Community Justice Cen…