The Exonerated Five Honored with Freedom Fighter Award at Ending Mass Incarceration Event

The Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta hosted the ‘Ending Mass Incarceration’ Conference aimed at ending overcrowding prisons.

The event kicked off Monday night with a ceremony at the church led by Rev. Raphael Warnock, who said Georgia is still Ground Zero for the sheer number of people under correctional control.

Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana, two of five men who were wrongly imprisoned in 1990 for a crime they didn’t commit, received the Freedom Fighter Award from the church.

Salaam and Santana accepted this award on behalf of the group as well as a certificate of Congressional Recognition on behalf of Congressman John Lewis.

“They threw diamonds in the dirt but we were still diamonds, we arose like the Phoenix 30 years later to take our rightful place in this world,” said Salaam.

“It’s never been true that slavery has been abolished,” Alexander said. “If you have been convicted of a crime, the U.S. Constitution still says, today, that slavery is just fine.”

During her remarks, Alexander noted that one in three black men will spend time in prison at least once in their lives.

The conference, which runs until Wednesday, will host panels and discussions dealing with the school to prison pipeline, expunging a criminal record, and prison alternatives.

Featured speakers will include the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Ambassador Andrew Young and civil rights leader Xernona Clayton.

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