Yusef Salaam is one of the Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five. In 1989, Salaam, along with four other teenagers, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, were wrongfully convicted of the rape and assault of a jogger in New York City’s Central Park.
The case gained significant media attention and sparked public outrage due to the racial dynamics involved and the questionable methods used by law enforcement during the investigation. Despite no physical evidence linking them to the crime, the five teenagers were coerced into giving false confessions, which later played a crucial role in their convictions.
In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist, confessed to the Central Park jogger attack. DNA evidence corroborated his confession, leading to the exoneration of the five individuals. Yusef Salaam and the others were released from prison after spending between six and thirteen years behind bars.
Since his release, Salaam has been an advocate for criminal justice reform, particularly focusing on issues related to false confessions, wrongful convictions, and the impact of systemic racism in the justice system. He has spoken at various events, given interviews, and shared his experiences to raise awareness and promote change.
Salaam’s story has been the subject of documentaries, books, and television series, including the critically acclaimed Netflix series “When They See Us” directed by Ava DuVernay, which provides a detailed account of the Central Park Five case.