The Central Park Five – Criminal Injustice System

Image source:

America carries the ideal view of being the “dream country” and melting pot where opportunities and liberal rights are offered equally to all people. However, this is most definitely contradicted by the criminal justice system. People around the world hope to come to the United States with the hopes of achieving the “American dream,” however the criminal justice system is one example of how the United States continues to oppress minorities, people of color, specifically Black and Latino individuals. Although slavery ended in 1865, Black individuals still experienced racial terrorism, subordination, and segregation. This is shown through the establishment of Jim Crow laws and Black codes. Jim Crow laws kept White and Black individuals socially and physically segregated as Blacks were subjected to lesser than equal treatments in a degraded manner. Black codes restricted African Americans into working low wage jobs and allowed the practice of convict labor in which Black individuals, if convicted of a crime, were forced into enslavement. Also, After Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the term war on drugs became popularized as minorities/people of color, mainly Black individuals, were being targeted with drug usage putting them in a position of being viewed with racial degradation. Fast forward to today’s criminal justice system that is influenced through such historical events, it is statistically proven that there is a disproportionately large population of Black individuals who are imprisoned; 40% of Blacks are placed into prison even though there is only 13% of Blacks in the U.S., 19% of Latino individuals are placed into prison even though there is only 16% of Latinos in the U.S., meanwhile, 39% of White individuals are put into prison even though there is 64% of Whites in the U.S.

One example of the ongoing persecution towards people of color in the criminal justice system is conveyed in the case of the Central Park Five. In 1989, five teenagers, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, ages 14-16 were falsely convicted for harassing and raping a white woman who was jogging in Central Park in New York City. On the night of April 19th, the five Black and Latino teens along with a group 25 other teenagers went to Central Park where some of the teens from the group were harassing a homeless man and another man, which led to the coming of the police in which Santana and Richardson were initially taken into the police station for questioning and so were McCray, Salaam, and Wise later on. The young boys were being asked questions about the woman and the occurrence for 14-30 hours with no food or drinks. As young persons, they were scared and pressured during the interrogation leading them to write different statements and say confessions that the authorities would want to hear in order for them to just be released from questioning. The authorities just wanted to get something out of these young boys, they wanted to hear and know that they had done something unlawful that placed them in a position of culpability. Even when the DNA evidence of the victim didn’t match to any of the five boys, they were still found guilty and incarcerated based on their videotaped confessions which was the only form of “evidence” the detectives, authorities, and other officials involved could solely rely on to present that these five teens did commit the crime. McCray, Santana, Richardson and Salaam were sentenced to 5-10 years and Wise was sentenced to 5-15 years. Their youth was taken away from them, they were separated from their families whom they saw limitedly, and they lived a very harsh life in which they were falsely labeled as committing a crime seen as the most horrible and inhumane act that can be done especially because of the fact that they were Black and Latino persons. Finally, in 2002, the valid convict, Matias Reyes revealed that he raped and sexually assaulted the woman and much work was done to ultimately put down the charges against the five boys. But even after the claim on their being innocent, the media, detectives, and authorities presented their unyielding to being incorrect, more unsusceptible to the reality of the truth, and the need of preserving and guarding those managing the criminal justice system. There wasn’t a huge public claim against the authorities to truly bring justice to these five teens that portrayed that the authorities and criminal justice system were wrong and were (and still is) outrageously racists. This all is a result and ongoing manifestation of racial matters in our history and exhibits the concept of black pathology, social, and racial separation in America’s criminal justice system. There is the idea that people of color, mainly Black individuals, were rooted from families who were bad influences, projected wrong principles of behavior, social and dispositional deficiencies. There truly needs to be an end to this form of racial regularity in the criminal justice system. The society needs to see and be exposed to the fact that many authorities and civil forces care more about protecting the system and themselves, rather than bringing actual equity and justice towards innocent individuals who are falsely incarcerated especially when those being falsely convicted are people of color.

Further reading:


Burns, Ken (producer), Burns, Sarah (producer), Mcmahon, David (producer), Corbley, Jim (producer), & Burns, Ken (director), Burns, Sarah (director), Mcmahon, David (director). (2012). The Central Park Five (motion picture). United States: Sundance Selects.

Hagler, Jamal. “8 Facts You Should Know About the Criminal Justice System and People of Color.” Center for American Progress. N.p., 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.


  1. The justice system has always been very unfair towards the black community and latino community, and continues until this day. You see it everywhere, in the press, tv, and social media. There is great prejudice towards blacks and latinos, and now matter how much you try to educate others on race and discrimination it does not help, because that racist and prejudice view is embedded in peoples minds since they are children. It is very easy to say that we have to change how we think, but this might be hard for many people especially when the media is telling them to be afraid of blacks and latinos. it all depends on how it is portrayed, and honestly the media has a lot of power in the criminal justice system. It seems that this system has become more of a show, concentrated in creating and reinforcing negative stereotypes.

  2. after reading the blog, I feel led to causes of inequality that is human not the justice system. since the system won’t have prejudice and discrimination, only the human has that. therefore, If there are prejudice and discrimination still exist in their mind, the same thing will happen again.

  3. Perfectly put with the line “his all is a result and ongoing manifestation of racial matters in our history and exhibits the concept of black pathology, social, and racial separation in America’s criminal justice system. ” The flaws in the criminal justice system continue to exploit and deprave (especially) African Americans to the benefit of the DOJ and DOC. Even though DNA evidence exonerated these young men they were forced to live a life of shame and injustice. The system continuously fails people.

  4. I remember learning about this case in a sociology class, and I still cannot fathom how law enforcement justified their actions. There are two aspects that stand out to me most: the blatant racism, and the disregard for women’s safety.

    First, these five young men were wrongfully convicted of a crime, in which they were pressured by police to confess. This case occurred before people were walking around with camera phones, and long before movements such as Black Lives Matter. These men knew that the police could physically and verbally abuse them, and no one would bear witness. They had already deprived the boys of food, so what else were they capable of? The fear of being killed likely outweighed the fear of being imprisoned, and the police took advantage of their vulnerability. In contrast, rapist Brock Turner only served three months of a six-month sentence. While the DNA of the Central Park Five did not even match the DNA found on the victim, Turner was actually seen raping an intoxicated, unconscious woman, and only stopped once he was caught. The crimes occurred over a decade apart, but the racial undertones are still apparent.

    In addition, there is a misogynistic factor in the Central Park Five case. The conviction of innocent men created the appearance of safety–with the “rapists” off the street, women were once again safe in Central Park. In actuality, there was still a rapist roaming free, able to strike again. It is unnerving to know that law enforcement cares more about the illusion of a safe city, rather than actually working to achieve that goal. Justice was not served for the women of New York City, Matias Reyes (the actual rapist), and, most importantly, the Central Park Five.

  5. The case of the Central Park Five really shows how the justice system looks to pin crimes on minorities in order to satisfy the stereotypes of crime associated with such races. Social media and the amount of exposure around such cases is what encourages this type of mentality and behavior towards minorities to continue. In order to correct some of the injustices of our justice system, racial and class driven targeting needs to stop. There is no growth or justice for minorities with this way of thinking. Progressive change would result from eliminating biases and stereotypes against minorities.

Comments are closed.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet