The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution cites “cruel and unusual punishments [should not be] inflicted.” But what is cruel and unusual punishment? How does an amendment written in 1791 relate to issues today?

In the winter of 2017, CUP collaborated with Teaching Artist Meredith Degyansky and the International Community High School’s 11th grade to peel back the pages of the U.S. Constitution. Under the Eighth Amendment, should minors be charged as adults? Should inmates be held in solitary confinement? Who decides?

To investigate, students got out of the classroom and into the politics of the Eighth Amendment to speak with people invested in NYC’s justice system, from a New York Police Department Detective to a New York State Senator. Students surveyed community members for their opinions, created Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to breakdown different points of view, and created the Is Justice For All? postcard set to teach others what they learned and how you can get involved. 

Students debuted their project at the International Community High School, where they viewed their PSAs and demonstrated their critical analysis skills.

Get your own postcard set here!

Check out some of the students’ videos below!

What People are Saying

“Both the products and the process surpassed my expectations. The CUP project was the highlight of my year!” – Nick Deming, classroom teacher

CUP allows my students to be more active learners. It is a time for them to be creative and think outside of the box. With the interviews, the students are (safely) pushed out of their comfort zones and I think this is one of the first times they realize that learning can happen anywhere, and that we can learn from anyone.” – Julia Joseph, classroom teacher

CUP brings engaging, real world topics into the classroom and gets students out of their seats. Students ALWAYS love community surveys. They can communicate with the people in their neighborhood better than anyone and aren’t afraid to ask deep questions.” – Meredith Degyansky, Teaching Artist


Helal Abdulla, Maria Abreu Cappellan, Camila Alberto, Carlos Alberto, Julio Alberto, Alma Almonte Perez, Yorjeny Almonte, Khadeja Alomari, Julia Alvarenga, Mamadou Bah, Mamadou Macka Bah, Samantha Barrera, Sadou Barry, Renato Bello Ogando, Warlenny Breton, Mary Cabrera, Nicole Camacho Taveras, Alexandra Castillo, Genesis Castillo, Manny Castillo, Celine Collado, Lucas De La Cruz, Tania De Los Santos,Sakho Diakhate, Mariama Bobo Diallo, Mohamadou Diallo, Frica Diosnel, Alhussein Essaedi, Fatou Faye, Lisson Fernandez Taver, Franklin Figuereo, Silvio Francisco Pena, Gleidy Grullon, Alejandro Guerrero, Ambar Guerrero, Francisco Guerrero, Osman Guevara Castro, Fatima Binetou Gueye, Angel Gutierrez, Luis Gutierrez, Bryan Guzman, Leonel Hernandez, Luz Milka Hidalgo, Saleh Humaidi, Karina Jimenez, Jeremy Ladines, Maryuri Lainez, Sory Lantigua, Oscar Lino, Albert Lopez, Carlos Lopez, Chariny Luciano, Oziel Luzon, Jose Maldonado, Dalline Mancebo, Michael Martinez, Yunio Matos, Katherine Mayancela, Michael Medina, Madeline Mejia, Nicole Mendez Ramirez, Orlando Miranda, Ana Mogena, Wagner Montero, Anthony Moreira, Leittsha Moreira, Manuel Morel, Scarlet Morel, Yudelkis Morel, Mamoudou Niane, Mame Niang, Angel Nina Rodriguez, Kindry Norales, Perla Novas, Aldris Nunez, Elydianys Ortiz, Rikelmy Ortiz, Blaymi Paez, Virgilio Parache, Kimberly Polanco, Maria Pastor, Giuseppe Pazmino, Katherine Pichardo, Willianny Pichardo, Yessica Pichardo, Arafath Radji, Sergio Alberto Ramirez, Matthew Rivera Mora, Elizabeth Reynoso, Liliana Robledo, Melissa Rodriguez, Nayely Rodriguez, Raiddira Ruan, Perla Ruiz, Sheikh Rumana, Hanan Saleh, Santiago Rodriguez, Kendry Rosado, Erika Sain Hilaire, , Astou Samb, Jeison Santana Acosta, Sindy Santana, Clari Santos, John Santos, Adonis Nana Sewa, Malik Shami, Alvin Smythe, Nivida Solano, Kevin Solis, Carla Sosa, Ana Toribio, Luis Toribio Colon, Ayah Traore, Nancy Vivenes, Melannye Vizcaino, Luz Ynoa, and Michael Zapata

Resources & Links

International Community High School is a progressive high school in the South Bronx for English Language Learners.

Funding Support

This project was made possible by the Bay & Paul Foundations, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support was provided by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Special Thanks

Clair Beltran, Jeneuse Geula, Gustavo Rivera, Kate Rubin, Hrudaya Veena Yanamandala, Benny Vargas, Irina Vinnitskaya, and Cin Yee Selina Cheah


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Meredith Degyansky
  • Project Lead
  • Jenn Anne Williams
  • Project Support
  • Nicholas Johnson
  • The International Community High School
  • Classroom Teachers
  • Nick Deming
  • Julia Joseph