From Cellblock To Your Block

In March 2017, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio pledged to close the Rikers Island jail complex within 10 years and introduced plans to build four new “borough-based” jails in the city. Who decides where new jails get built? How do jails impact surrounding neighborhoods? What are the impacts of jails on the incarcerated, their families, and their communities?

In the spring of 2018, CUP collaborated with Teaching Artist Stephen Kwok and public high school students from Life Sciences Secondary School to investigate these questions. Students got out of the classroom to create public art interventions, survey community members near the Manhattan Detention Complex, and interview key stakeholders working on the issue. The crew gathered what they learned and created From Cellblock to Your Block, a booklet that teaches others what students discovered about NYC’s jails.

Students debuted their project at the 96th Street Library where they presented their booklet, demonstrated their interview skills, and shared their creative process.

Get your own booklet here!

What People Are Saying

“I’m really proud of my drawing [in the booklet]! I really like it! I’m also proud that we got to work together and make this publication!” – Josselyn Gualpa, student

“I learned how to work with different people – being able to deal with different personalities and present their ideas even if they may clash. We worked together towards the end goal to make the [final product] perfect!” – Oumou Bah, student

“[CUP’s Urban Investigations] opens students’ minds to asking questions, debating topics, and creating space to discuss their feelings on complex and difficult issues. The program builds confidence and helps students communicate their personal experiences.”  – Cecilia Marshall, Parent Coordinator at Life Sciences Secondary School

Resources & Links

The Center for Court Innovation is a nonprofit think tank that helps courts and criminal justice agencies aid victims, reduce crime, and improve public trust in justice.

Funding Support

Major support for this program was provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Ben Kallos.

Special Thanks

Clair Beltran, Christine Gaspar, Bria Mathis, Crystal Melville, Frampton Tolbert, Irina Vinnitskaya


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Stephen Kwok
  • Project Lead
  • Fielding Hong
    • Life Sciences Secondary School 
    • Students
    • Ania Anis
    • Oumou Bah
    • Josselyn Gualpa
    • Emily Ramirez
    • Ana Rodriguez
    • Ana Ines Rodriguez
    • Mariana Rodriguez
    • Shamsha Roshan
    • Principal
    • Kim Swanson
    • Parent Coordinator
    • Cecilia Marshall