Central Park Five: Fighting the stigma

by Ardhys De Leon, Editor-in-Chief

Central Park Five is a case of five boys who were convicted of raping a women at Central Park. One of them being Raymond Santana, who is now part of the Innocent Project. Picture drawn by Teo Miljkovic and taken by Sofia Khan.

Central Park Five is a case of five boys who were convicted of raping a women at Central Park. One of them being Raymond Santana, who is now part of the Innocent Project. Picture drawn by Teo Miljkovic and taken by Sofia Khan.

Being accused of something without having done it can be frustrating; but being convicted for it, judged and persecuted can be devastating. This is what Raymond Santana went through at the age of 14.

Now after being exonerated, Santana has been focusing on correcting this odium.

“[I’m trying to pick up the pieces] one day at a time. And analyze any situation that I walk into. I am not so fast to speed through life, so I take a step back and try to enjoy and I literally over-analyze sometimes anything that I get into,” Raymond Santana said.

Santana was one out of five teenagers convicted for rapping and assaulting a jogger in Central Park in 1989. But in 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist, confessed and Santana, along with the other boys was exonerated. By this time, Santana had already served 8 years, for a crime he did not commit.

“It  [was] difficult because the stuff that you would be learning as a teenager gets replaced with prison life, and so I became institutionalized. The psychological effects, you start to think differently,” Santana said.

After being released, integrating into society wasn’t easy. Santana had to work hard to try to fix the misconceptions people had about him. He worked with Ken Burns and others in the production of the documentary Central Park Five, which showed the public the truth.

“[Since this documentary] we get a lot of people who stop us in the street, who apologize for what happened, and it becomes like a welcoming back into society which is part of the healing process for us,” Raymond Santana said.

Today, Santana is part of Innocent Project, a legal organization that uses DNA evidence to prove that people have been wrongly convicted. He also attends Colleges and High Schools through this organization and shares his story with others.

“I want people to learn from our story so that they know it can happen, that it still happens. This is not an isolated case, it happens all the time, and I want this story to hopefully save somebody’s life,” Raymond Santana stated.

 

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