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The Books Briefing: Prison Sentences

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The case of the so-called Central Park Five—a group of Harlem teenagers who were arrested for the rape and attempted murder of a white woman in 1989, and then exonerated years later—is an infamous example of how racism and paranoia can distort the workings of justice. The director Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix about the saga, however, focuses less on the circumstances of the case than on how coerced confessions and imprisonment shaped the five boys’ lives. As such, it’s putting a new public spotlight on the human impact that results even when the American penal system is working as it’s designed to.

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