NewsNationalScripps News


1-on-1 with former Central Park 5's Yusef Salaam

Salaam was sent to prison when he was 15 and spent almost seven years there before he was exonerated.
1-on-1 with former Central Park 5's Yosef Salaam
Posted at 5:44 PM, Nov 07, 2023

In a remarkable turn of events, one of the exonerated "Central Park Five" members is set to win a seat at the New York City Council in Tuesday's elections.

Yusef Salaam will represent his home community of Harlem in New York.

"This victory really signals more than just for me but for my constituents that it is possible for us to just do anything," said Yusef Salaam.

SCRIPPS NEWS' AXEL TURCIOS: What are you going to do for your constituents?

YUSEF SALAAM: The biggest push I think over and above, getting affordable housing for my community, getting safe streets for my community, getting great education, world class education, it's us beginning to plan for a future that allows us to come together and organize in a way that's meaningful.

Salaam was one of five teens, wrongfully accused and imprisoned for the beating and rape of a white woman in Central Park in 1980.

The group came to be known as the Central Park Five.

Salaam was sent to prison when he was 15 and spent almost seven years there before he was exonerated.

SCRIPPS NEWS' AXEL TURCIOS: In 2022, the National Registry of Exonerations published the list of people who were convicted of crimes and were later exonerated — 53% of them were Black. Based on your life's experience, what do you think this tells us about our justice system?

YUSEF SALAAM: Well, it tells us that the system itself is alive and sick. Because right now, if we're not the majority of this population but we are the majority of the people that are in the prison industrial complex, that means we have a problem.

Salaam will now help make policy in New York City, which continues to struggle with a migrant crisis.

"I think the mayor has been given an unfair task. Because it's one thing to have to deal with mayoral issues as it relates to the community that you're coming into but it's another thing to have a new set of challenges that you didn't think about, that you didn't foresee," Salaam added.

Salaam was exonerated in 2002.

The city ultimately paid a $41 million settlement to the five men in 2014.

SEE MORE: Exonerated in 'Central Park 5' case, Salaam wins NYC Council primary

Trending stories at