Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after spending between seven (7) and thirteen (13) years of their lives behind bars. The unidentified DNA in the Central Park Jogger Case, unlinked to any of the five, had finally met its owner, a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed. The convictions of the boys, now men, were overturned and they were exonerated. One of those boys, Yusef Salaam, was just 15 years old when his life was upended and changed forever.
Since his release, Yusef has committed himself to advocating and educating people on the issues of false confessions, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in America’s criminal justice system. In 2013, documentarians Ken and Sarah Burns released the documentary “The Central Park Five,” which told of this travesty from the perspective of Yusef and his cohorts.
In 2014, The Central Park Five received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of New York for its grievous injustice against them. Yusef was awarded an Honorary Doctorate that same year and received the President's Life Time Achievement Award in 2016 from President Barack Obama.
He was appointed to the board of the Innocence Project in 2018, and has released a Netflix Feature limited series called “When They See Us” based on the true story of the “Central Park Five” with Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro, in May of 2019.
- Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice
Based on the memoir connects Yusef’s story to the lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life's experiences. It inspires readers to channel their own stories into tools for change in the pursuit of racial justice.
- When They See Us
- Forgiveness, a Path to Redemption
- Targeting Unconscious Bias and Systemic Racism