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Long shadow of Jon Burge: City considers anti-torture resolution

by Tiffany Walden
Jan 12, 2012

Related Links

Illinois Coalition Against Torture

Torture defined

The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention) defines torture as:


"Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person..."


Find more information on torture on the Illinois Coalition Against Torture website.

Decades of torture within the Chicago Police Department may be nearing a historic end after Thursday’s City Council hearings on an anti-torture resolution.

If the Chicago City Council accepts the resolution, Chicago will be the first “torture-free” city in the country, said Ald. Joseph A. Moore (49th). He said he is confident that the Council will support the resolution unanimously.

“It is not human. It is not right. It is not just and quite frankly, it does not work,” said Moore at a Thursday morning press conference before the hearings.

The resolution is a response to the case of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, who was accused of torturing hundreds of prisoners to gain confessions over a nearly 20-year period. He is serving a four and a half-year federal sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about having tortured prisoners.
Moore is sponsor of the resolution, which was drafted by the Illinois Coalition Against Torture. If adopted the resolution would affirm that the city will not tolerate or allow torture by its employees and residents, and that it recognizes prisoners’ human rights.
Attorney Flint Taylor, speaking at a Thursday press conference in support of the resolution, urged the city to support the efforts of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to terminate Burge’s pension.

Flint said Chicago taxpayers have spent more than $13 million in court cases defending Burge and officers under his command. In the first 10 months of 2011, the city spent more than $1 million to support these cases.

Supporters of the anti-torture resolution said the money should be used to compensate torture survivors and their families, who are also affected by the abuse from police. Victims suffer from medical and psychological problems, as do their families who sometimes were harassed until the confession was signed.

“They planned to come get me and drag me off my job if my son didn’t sign the confession,” said Mary L. Johnson, the mother of a Burge torture victim, who is a current inmate at TAMMS Correctional Center. “They go after your children. They go after your mother. There’s no end to it.”

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) said he plans to introduce a federal anti-torture bill in Congress along with Reps. Bobby Rush, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Luis Gutierrez.