Amnesty International's report, Bringing Human Rights Home to Chicago and Illinois, is an action-oriented blueprint for advancing human rights in Chicago and Illinois. The report, prepared in connection with Amnesty International USA's annual Human Rights Conference, outlines ten pressing human rights issues facing the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois as a whole and recommends steps for immediate action by city, state and/or federal officials.
Bringing Human Rights Home to Chicago and Illinois focuses on:
- Reparations for survivors of torture by Chicago police from the 1970s to 1990s, involving more than 100 suspects
- An array of human rights impacted by gun violence in Chicago
- Potential human rights violations connected to school closures, including lack of access to quality education and children placed at risk of violence or death
- Human rights challenges in the Illinois criminal justice system, including a prison population that has quadrupled over a thirty-year period
- Concerns about racial profiling in Illinois, including investigatory street stops in Chicago
- The use of Tasers by law enforcement officials
- The use of prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement in the Illinois justice system
- The sentencing of juveniles to life without parole in Illinois
- Concerns about immigrant human rights, including at three immigration detention facilities in Illinois
- Gaps in ensuring human rights of LGBTQI individuals and communities, including gaps in addressing hate crimes and policing practices related to gender identity and sexual orientation in Chicago
In each of the ten areas of focus, Amnesty International makes recommendations for immediate action by city, state and/or federal officials:
1. Torture: Ensure allegations of torture or other ill-treatment are investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted and victims are compensated. The Chicago City Council should pass the ordinance introduced by Aldermen Moreno and Brookins providing reparations for Chicago police torture survivors. Read More
2. Gun Violence: Ensure human rights are part of the strategy to address gun violence, including a call for all federal legislators in Illinois to co-sponsor, and the US Congress to pass, the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act ("Youth PROMISE Act") (H.R. 1381 and S. 1307), a bi-partisan bill that would fund, implement and evaluate evidence-based locally run youth and gang violence prevention and intervention programs, including in Chicago. Read More
3. Education: Local, state and federal officials should ensure that children enjoy their right to be protected from harm and discrimination, and that their access to education is not restricted. The "Safe Passage Routes" should continue to be adequately resourced to ensure that all children's right to life and security of the person are respected.
4. Criminal Justice: Illinois state legislators should undertake a comprehensive review of the state's criminal justice system policies and practices and implement reforms that would address mass incarceration, prison conditions, harsh mandatory minimum sentences, discriminatory profiling by law enforcement, unnecessary or excessive use of force by law enforcement, as well as racial and economic disparities that exist at every stage of the criminal justice system.
5. Racial Profiling: The City of Chicago should reform the Chicago Police Department Contact Information System and create an effective database to allow for better oversight and accountability of potential racial profiling by CPD officers during stops of Chicago residents. The Illinois Legislature should introduce and pass legislation that bans the practice of racial profiling in all police interactions, and should pass HB 4222, which will remove the January 1, 2015 sunset provision of its current racial profiling data collection statute.
6. Tasers: The Independent Police Review Authority should fully investigate every incident where a taser is used; the City of Chicago should ensure funding for independent reviews; and the State of Illinois pass legislation suspending the use of tasers until all law enforcement personnel currently equipped with such devices are properly trained and effective oversight mechanisms are established to ensure that arbitrary and abusive use of CEDs is prevented and punished.
7. Solitary Confinement: The Illinois legislature should pass legislation that would eliminate the use of prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement and ensure that it complies with international law and standards, including a complete ban on the use of solitary confinement for children and people with mental disabilities; federal legislators from Illinois should ensure that the Thompson Correctional Center is neither funded nor designated as a "super-max" isolation facility.
8. Juvenile Life without Parole: The Illinois legislature should pass legislation that would prohibit life without parole sentences for juveniles. In furtherance of this, Illinois Legislature should pass S.B. 1858 to bring its sentencing laws in compliance with the Supreme Court decision (Miller v Alabama) on mandatory juvenile life without parole. The State of Illinois should grant sentencing review hearings to all of those juveniles who were sentenced to life without parole.
9. Immigrant rights: State and local officials in Illinois should rescind the contracts of any facility that detains immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement that fails to meet international standards on administrative detention of immigrants and ICE detention standards.
10. LGBTQI rights: The Municipal Code of Chicago (§§2-120-518/8-4-085) should be amended to include gender identity as a motivating bias for a hate crime; Police Departments in Chicago and Illinois should review Amnesty International's recommendations on best practices for policing practices with regards to LGBTQI communities and ensure that their policies and procedures adhere to international law and standards.
Amnesty International recognizes the vibrant human rights community within Chicago and that the state of Illinois – thanks in part to the dedication and leadership of many Chicagoans — has taken a number of positive steps to advance human rights issues, from marriage equality to abolishing the death penalty. However, more still needs to be done. For further information please go to www.amnestyusa.org.
The time for action – and change – is now.