The Academy-Award nominated director takes viewers back to New York City 1989 in which five boys–Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise were accused of the beating and rape of a 28-year-old white woman, Trisha Meili. The teens, later known as the Central Park 5, would endure a callous smear campaign from several New York newspapers and Donald Trump who took out full-page editorials calling for the teen’s execution.
Jackson, who plays attorney Peter Rivera, tasked with proving the boy’s innocence, knows the prison system up close. During a junket interview at New York’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the 43-year-old actor revealed his father was in and out of prison throughout his childhood. Yet it was only after this project that he began to learn about an initiative hoping to eradicate all correctional facilities.
“The prison abolitionists movement is something I just started to scratch the surface of,” Jackson said. He revealed he’d read the New York Times feature on Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a renowned prison abolitionist, and prior to filming When They See Us, couldn’t quite wrap his mind around the idea of no more prisons.
“It is so much easier for us to execute our vengeance, say goodbye and move on with our lives,” Jackson said. “It’s the convenient functionality of that institution.”
With a little less than two minutes to spare during our junket sitdown, Jackson explains why it’s easier to cast aside those who commit crimes then it is to help people prior to the transgression.
When They See Us will stream on Netflix May 31.