THE BLOG
11/29/2012 11:45 am ET | Updated Jan 29, 2013

The Central Park Five Deserve Economic Justice

When you rob five young men of their youth, innocence and educational opportunity and put them and their families through hell for more than a decade, you owe them more than an apology -- you owe them restitution.

New York City has still not settled the case being waged by five minority men who were wrongfully convicted in 1990 for what then Mayor Edward Koch called the "crime of the century."

The new documentary by Ken and Sarah Burns, The Central Park Five, should be required viewing in every high school in America, as well as in every law school class. It depicts how our law enforcement and legal system can occasionally rush to judgment and convict the wrong people.

It reminds us that just 150 years after the Civil War and less than 50 years after the Civil Rights movement made some important gains, we still live in a country where young black men are occasionally victims of racial profiling and injustice.

New York Times journalist Jim Dwyer, a smart talking head throughout the film, made a very poignant point: the news of their exoneration in 2002 was a small news story compared to the wild media circus in 1989.

It is high time that New York makes restitution to these men, who are now in their late 30s and who exhibit grace and no rancor in this important film. Their $250 million federal civil rights lawsuit has been challenged by the city and has been held up in a protracted legal battle. Perhaps New York State should step in and make a fair offer to each of these men so that we can finally put this ugly chapter in New York City history behind us.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature should take up this matter in their next legislative session and finally do the right thing.

Yusef Salaam, Antron McRay, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Kevin Richardson each spent seven years in prison (Wise, actually 13) for a crime they did not commit.

They have taught each of us a very valuable lesson and we owe them a fair settlement. The Central Park Five deserve, finally, economic justice.


Tom Allon is a 2013 candidate for Mayor of New York City.