Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana, two members of the Central Park Five, will visit Salt Lake Community College’s South City Campus on Feb. 18 to discuss criminal justice reform and the harrowing story surrounding their wrongful convictions in 1989.
The Central Park Five case revolved around five black and Hispanic youths accused and convicted of raping Trisha Meili, who was jogging through New York City’s Central Park. The boys, all between 14 and 16 years of age at the time, spent several years in correctional facilities for a crime they did not commit. In 2002, all five men were exonerated of the crime.
With situations like Santana and Salaam’s still occurring in the United States, students and faculty at Salt Lake Community College discuss what, in terms of compensation, should be done in cases where people are wrongfully sent to jail.
Sean Kingdon, business major: “Depends on the effect of the conviction … Housing, income, job market, all become factors to be considered.”
Bre Hood, criminal justice major: “I feel like it should go from a case-to-case basis. The people that were convicted with circumstantial evidence should get some sort of compensation, but if there was hard evidence, it is hard to know if they are truly innocent.”
Judy Braun, professor of education and human relations: “I think people that have been wrongfully convicted, so long as there is full evidence, deserve compensation for the time, pain and emotional turmoil that they went through, and the time served in a prison system that probably totally changed their lives … In no way, and in no form, should people be serving time and have their life ruined over false convictions.”
Alex Vasquez, mechanical engineering major: “There should be some compensation. I feel like that’s obvious. Regarding the amount of money, it’s difficult to round to a fixed number. But I think the biggest thing that would help the most, honestly, would be money, and maybe implementing a structure that would kind of help them ease back into society.”
Natalie Hernandez, undecided major: “Personally, I think that’s hard to answer, because when you take away that much time from someone, you can’t really replace that with something materialistic. I think, to begin with, it shouldn’t happen.”
William Makoma, student: “The way I see it, time lost is time lost. No matter how long, that’s still time lost, and I don’t think anyone should go through that if they are innocent. So … they should be given financial support and be placed in communities where they are welcomed with social support.”