CHICAGO – After months of work by survivors and stakeholders, including Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Amnesty International USA, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his support for a proposed ordinance that would provide reparations to survivors of Chicago Police torture during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. The ordinance will be introduced to the Chicago City Council tomorrow.
Between 1972 and 1991, over 100 people, practically all African-American men, were subjected to horrific abuse while in the custody of Chicago Police officers under the direction of former commander Jon Burge. The abuse included electric shocks to the genitals, mock executions, and beatings accompanied by racial epithets.
Under torture, those in custody confessed to crimes that resulted in some spending decades in prison or on Illinois’ death row. The use of torture tainted every conviction obtained by Burge and those operating under his command. The vast majority of survivors were never compensated for their ordeal, and not a single survivor has ever received adequate reparations. Burge was never held accountable for the crime of torture due to a statute of limitations, and instead served less than four years for perjury. He was released to a halfway house in 2014, and walked free of house arrest this year.
“Chicago has before it a historic opportunity to show the country, and the world, that there should be no expiration date on reparations for crimes as heinous as torture,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “We are proud to stand with the survivors of torture and all the people of Chicago in this final push to atone for the past, and we commend Mayor Emanuel’s commitment to ensuring that such heinous violations of human rights are not repeated in Chicago, as is his obligation under international law.”
The ordinance will provide a formal apology from the city; specialized counseling services to survivors and their families at a dedicated center on the South side; free enrollment and job training in City Colleges; a requirement that the Burge torture cases and police brutality be taught as part of Chicago public schools history curriculum; and a permanent public memorial to torture survivors. The ordinance will also create a $5.5 million dollar fund, meant to ensure that living survivors of Burge torture will receive the financial compensation they deserve.
Pending passage through the City Council finance committee, Amnesty International calls for the full City Council to pass the ordinance with no further delay.
When describing the ordinance, Darrell Cannon, a survivor of torture by detectives under Burge’s command, said: “This is historic. For those of us who have been fighting and struggling to set a landmark, this is that landmark. This is the moment. What we do here will not be undone. People across the country will talk about Chicago.”
"We are gratified, that after so many years of denial and cover-up by the prior administration, the city has acknowledged the harm inflicted by the torture and recognized the needs of the Burge torture survivors and their families by negotiating this historic reparations agreement,” said Joey Mogul of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and the People’s Law Office. “This legislation is the first of its kind in this country, and it passage and implementation will go a long way to remove the longstanding stain of police torture from the conscience of the city."