The Central Park Five Reveal an Ugly side to our Justice System

Last night I watched a documentary called “The Central Park Five.” This documentary was about how five black and Latino teenage boys who were wrongly accused of assaulting and raping a white woman jogging in central park. The night of the “Central Park Jogger” case, assaults and robberies were taking place in the park, but these boys knew nothing about the female jogger in the park that night. They were arrested that night, and when they were tried in court, they were pressured into giving false confessions about committing the crime.


Four out of the five boys pleaded guilty in court, though these false confessions. Because of this wrong accusation of the crime, many people began to demonstrate hatred towards these boys by viewing them as bad people, and labeling them as sex offenders. The female jogger, Trisha Meili, went to the court hearing and claimed she didn’t remember the details of her assault that night.


The media blew up on this “Central Park Jogger” case, destroying the reputations of these boys. Many years of their youth were spent in prison, when they should have been spending their lives as free men.


What really stood out to me, was when one of the men said he was unable to find a job because no one wanted to hire a person who was convicted of a felony. With very little education or training in essential skills for jobs, that man had to rely on selling drugs as a way of make money. Selling drugs was the only thing he knew how to do.


This reminds me of the “school to prison pipeline”. Due to a lack of skills or education, people have no other choice but to resort to making money using illegal methods; thus getting them involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.


It wasn’t until Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, that the central park five were found innocent. Since they spent so much of their youth in prison, there was a large gap in in their lives. After being released, they were expected to return to their lives and continue from where they left off.


I highly recommend watching this documentary. If anyone else has seen this documentary, and be sure to let me know what you took away from it.

About christianyapor21

I am currently a Journalism/English major at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. I enjoy reading, writing, and photography. I aspire to become a multimedia editor.
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3 Responses to The Central Park Five Reveal an Ugly side to our Justice System

  1. As someone who also watched the documentary, I think this case also shows the importance as journalists to always question authorities and dig deep into truth. Everyday, we see how the truth is not always what it appears to be, and this case should remind us that. The journalists who covered this story back in 1989 never seemed to question why there was no match in DNA between any of the five suspects and the victim, even though they all originally claimed to have had a role in the attack and rape. They never questioned why each suspect described a different “weapon” used in the attack of the jogger and why the prosecutors only evidence was the testimony of the suspects from the night of the rape, in the police precincts after spending hours upon hours waiting there, and having made the testimony without lawyers present. Additionally, had the journalists created a timeline of the events of that night, based off the testimony by the suspects of where they had been in the park that night, and the information provided by the police department about the timing of the rape, the journalists would have easily been able to see that the stories wouldn’t have matched up. Had they investigated this more, the five men would not have had to spend years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit and there lives would have been much different.

  2. I watched the documentary as well, and was amazed at how our justice system failed so greatly for these boys. Had this happened today, I would hope that an uprising of protests and support would occur for the wrongly accused, across the nation and even the globe much like the Michael Brown case in Ferguson. But unfortunately, many cases like this do still occur, especially when the accused is a minority.
    The judge who spoke after the film in Maddy’s class Monday provided an interesting perspective from someone who works in the system. Although he does his very best to treat everyone fairly and justly, sometimes his hands are tied behind his back when it comes to Congress’ mandatory sentencing. Sometimes people are imprisoned for 15 years for one crime they’ve committed, and sometimes people who are innocent are sent on death row.
    Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black spoke at UMass last Wednesday, and she spoke of the injustices of the justice system as well. Women have been the highest increasing population in US prisons in the past 30 years. Many of these women are imprisoned for non-violent crimes, and many have children, forcing their children to go into foster care and even ending up in prison themselves later in life.
    As journalists, we have a responsibility in revealing the truth when such injustices occur. For the Central Park 5, the issue wasn’t in lack of media coverage–they had plenty, painting them as “wilding” hoodlums deserving of death. Even when their innocence was declared, the feedback wasn’t nearly as explosive as when they were considered guilty. The justice system and journalists alike failed for these men.

    • seafeezle says:

      Thanks for posting about this. Everyone should see this film, especially journalists. A blatant reminder and warning of how easy it is to be spoon-fed a dominant narrative. To look back and say, “Oh wow, we were so wrong,” is simple, but it’s much harder to avoid repeating such mistakes. We see media blunders repeated and perpetuated all the time with increased aggregation and this need-to-be-first mentality. I think of the Boston Marathon bombing coverage, for example, and cringe. Wrongly identified suspects all over the place, maintained in the media as fact amidst a whirlwind of contradictory rumors and confusion. Yikes.

      Unfortunately for the Central Park Five men, the time they lost while imprisoned will remain just that: forever lost. Tragic, and yet it could have been avoided.

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