Ángel González Chicago: Latinos Fare the Worst in U.S. Prison, Wrongfully Convicted Man Says
Ángel González, the Mexican man who was released last week after he spent 20 years in an Illinois prison due to a wrongful conviction, told the "Hora 21" TV program that Latino inmates have the hardest time in American penitentiaries, Univisón Noticias reported.
"In the United States, the minority that is abused the most in prisons are Hispanics," González said. "Nobody helps them; I tried to assist them with the English language," the 41-year-old man added.
In 1994, González had been convicted in the abduction and rape of a Waukegan, Illinois, woman; the then-20-year-old was sentenced to a 40-year term. A state judge threw out the conviction on March 9 because DNA tests showed that two other unidentified men were involved but failed to connect González to the crime, NBC News noted.
The Mexican man's case in 2012 had been taken on by the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic which handles cases where post-conviction DNA testing can yield conclusive proof of innocence. González had been writing to the organization since the 1990s.
The irregularities in his case began right from the start, he told "Hora 21," because he was not provided with a Spanish-language translator.
"The little English I spoke did not help me to defend myself in a crime, (and) sometimes justice is blind," González said. "For (committing) the error of signing a piece of paper, one can go to prison and remain there for 20 years," he added.
During the time he spent in prison, he observed many cases similar to his own, and Latinos are disproportionately affected by discrimination in the U.S. justice system, González argued.
"The legal system is not perfect; injsutices like mine are committed, (and) the law fails for a number of reasons," he said. "Unfortunately, there are many cases like mine, and I would like to do something for those who are jailed in a foreign country where nobody hears (their) voice."
On Monday, González met with Carlos Martín Jiménez Macías, the Mexican consul general in Chicago; at the diplomatic post, the former inmate also applied for his passport, though he said he hopes to remain in the United States, where most of his relatives reside.
"Prison has opened my eyes to being a positive person, to not allowing me to be defeated and to making use of opportunities to get better and better," he said.