When They See Us

Netflix’s new 4 part series follows the lives of 5 boys; Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise, all otherwise known as the Central Park 5.

The 5 boys were wrongfully accused and imprisoned for the rape and assault of a female jogger on a night run in Central Park, New York. The series shows the assault, manipulation and abuse the boys received from the police in a result to get them to admit to a crime they did not commit. In the end, all 5 boys admit to the crime in question as they are falsely promised that they can go home after they confess.

The treatment these boys received indicated that they were doomed from the minute they were arrested as they were also victims of racial discrimination which was infuriating to watch even though it’s something that is still an issue in society today.

The police wanted an easy job – several issues reported on the same night, in the same park, and only 5 boys were caught by the police in attempt to break up the group gathering that had formed from these high school boys. Five scared, emotional, hungry and tired teenagers were questioned without having their parents present, however the police behaviour wasn’t further investigated even though different statements were given by the same policemen at the trial stage.

After a heartbreaking first episode, the second episode continues with the trials. The trials were split with 3 boys in one and 2 in another and the frustrating scenes of the court room, of the lawyers and of the victims themselves were hard to watch as the opposing side were so adamant that these boys had committed the crime, they would let nothing get in their way. The judge and jury were not even bothered with the evidence that could have granted these boys their freedom.

The boys were all found guilty at the end of the trials and the scenes shown resulted in nothing but heartbreak and anger. With 4 out of 5 of the boys being under 16, they were sent to juvie and Korey, 16 at the time of conviction, was sent straight to an adult prison. This leads into episode 3 where the story follows the journey of the 4 boys in and out of prison but it doesn’t show much of their time in prison. It fast forwards to when they finally get out of prison, as men, and try to settle into the outside world that they were excluded from for so long. It becomes emotional as the boys learn that there are many things that they cannot do, such as certain jobs they cannot undertake, they can’t be around certain people or certain ages etc.

While these boys may have had a hard time in prison, even though it wasn’t shown, Korey Wise’s journey throughout prison was shown in episode 4, the final episode. Korey’s time in prison, from the age of 16 until the age of 28/29, was the hardest to watch as he was thrown into an adult prison at a very young age and had minimal awareness of the life that awaited him. Having had difficulties with learning and being slightly illiterate, Korey struggled to understand the prison routine around him and had to learn quite quickly in order to survive. Korey’s journey through different prisons, through the abuse and through the loneliness is utterly devastating and traumatic to watch.

As a viewer, you just want to jump right in and protect these boys and prove their innocence, even though it happened in 1989, watching it makes it seem like it’s happening in the present. The series resulted in a lot of devastation and anger from the viewers’ perspective and no matter how tough it is to watch, it shows the reality of injustices that happen around us all the time.

The end of the series shows that all 5 men were finally exonerated in 2002 after an inmate at Korey’s prison admitted to the crime and his DNA matched. Even though this was a relief, it doesn’t change the fact that they wrongfully missed so many years of their lives and that nothing can make up for the time that they lost and no amount of money given to them can erase the horrors they were subjected toas a result of the wrongful conviction and racial discrimination.

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