In April 2016, the NYPD raided two Eastchester housing complexes in the Bronx and arrested 120 people. Despite descriptions as the “largest gang takedown in New York City history,” over half the arrestees were never even charged as gang members. How did this all happen? Criminal Conspiracy Laws—originally used to bring down organized crime like the mafia—are being used by NYPD to police youth and charge them with “gang involvement”, simply because of who they know. For many low-income teens of color, basic activities like having friends in one’s neighborhood, are used to justify arrest at alarming rates.

What are criminal conspiracy laws? What’s the NYPD gang database? How do these laws and police practices impact local communities?

In the summer of 2019, CUP collaborated with Teaching Artist Ro Garrido and students from the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn to dig deep into criminal conspiracy laws and their impact on local community members, interview stakeholders working on the issue, and create art to show what they learned.

The group teamed up with designer Marcela Szwarc and created the booklet, Swept Up, to educate others and help them get involved in the issue.

Get your copy of the booklet here!

Check out more photos of the students in action here!  

What People Are Saying

“I was surprised by how many people are actually affected by this issue. I didn’t even know about criminal conspiracy [laws] until I did this program. A lot of people are getting harassed and locked up for no reason." — Justina Gonzalez-Delgado, student

“My most memorable experience was of the interviews I did. I usually don’t talk a lot and I’m a little shy. But it was actually fun to experience the interviews and break out of my shell, and gain some new skills such as learning how to use the video camera and set up audio… It was a really new experience for me and I really enjoyed it.” – Antonio Rivera, student

“[The students] did an amazing job! I’m going to use [Swept Up] in a lesson about these issues that I’m going to teach my class.” – Joshua Pacheco, Red Hook Community Justice Center

Resources & Links

Red Hook Community Justice Center (RHCJC) is the nation’s first multi-jurisdictional community court and is part of the Center for Court Innovation that seeks to help create a more effective and humane justice system by designing and implementing operating programs, performing orginal research, and providing reformers around the world with the tools they need to launch new strategies. 

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided by Christine Coletta Bockelman & Matt Bockelman, Susannah Drake, Birte Falconer, Iben Falconer & Neil Donnelly, Beom Jun Kim & Leticia Wouk Almino, Inbar Kishoni, Lauren Kogod & David Smiley, Raj Kottamasu, Francis Lam, Mehretu-Rankin Family, Metropolitan Paper Recycling Inc., Jeremy Robinson-Leon, Tal Schori, Dan Wiley, the CUP Board of Directors, and more than 200 CUP supporters. 

Special Thanks

Priscilla Bustamante, Miranda Grundy, Vidal Guzman, Jade Levine, Nidhi Subramanyam, El-Sun White, Liliana Zaragoza


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Ro Garrido
  • Designer
  • Marcela Szwarc
  • Project Lead
  • Fielding Hong
  • Project Support
  • Leigh Taylor

  • Red Hook Community Justice Center
  • Deputy Director
  • Viviana Gordon
  • Associate Director of Youth and Community Programs
  • Sabrina Carter

  • Coordinator of RHCJC Resilience Corps
  • Leslie Gonzaga
  • Students
  • Anthony Avery, Jaydah Baez, Malik Boston, Bianca Corbin, Justina Gonzalez-Delgado, Jamel Evans, Jarrett Evans, Devon Minns, Antonio Rivera, Omari Scarboro, Michael Williams


    NYC Teens Share How Criminal Justice System Impacts Their Communities
    • Next City
    • October 16, 2019

    Rivera and Minns were two of the 11 students who participated in a summer employment program at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, the nation’s first multijurisdictional community court. The cohort worked with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, a nonprofit using design and art to explain complex social justice issues, to compose a booklet explaining how criminal conspiracy laws impact New York communities.

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