Subject: [SocialistWorker.org] Chicago torture commission shut down
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Analysis: Alan Maass
======== CHICAGO TORTURE COMMISSION SHUT DOWN ================================
Alan Maass reports on how an effort to gain justice for torture victims is
June 20, 2012
THREE YEARS ago, a South Side Chicago attorney was able to convince Illinois
state legislators of the need for a commission to investigate allegations of
torture at the hands of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.
Earlier this month, the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission issued its
first recommendations for new hearings in the cases of men still behind bars
because of confessions tortured out of them by Burge and his men. But the
commission may never meet again--because the Illinois state legislature has
cut all funding for its investigations and operations.
No one doubts any more that torture did take place in Chicago police stations
against African American and Latino suspects. In June 2010, Burge was found
guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the torture cases--he
was never charged with the act of torture itself because the statute of
limitations had run out. Burge is in prison today, having been sentenced to
four-and-a-half years by a federal judge.
But as many as 23 Burge torture victims are also behind bars in Illinois. For
many, there is no evidence that they are guilty of the crime they were
convicted of, besides the confessions that Burge and his subordinates beat
and tortured the men into signing or speaking. But they have not been allowed
even new hearings into their cases, even now that the acts of torture against
them are acknowledged.
This is what the commission was supposed to do: Investigate claims of torture
and recommend action to the Cook County chief judge. In June, the panel said
it found "credible" evidence of torture in five of the nine cases it looked
into. But at its press conference, the commission said it wouldn't set a date
for another meeting because the state legislature had zeroed out the funding.
Last year, the budget for the commission, whose members are volunteers and
receive no compensation, was $150,000. This year's budget request was
$235,000, to allow the commission to hire a staff attorney. "I think they can
look on the floor and find it in pennies, it's such a small amount," said
Cheryl Starks, the chair of the torture commission. "Honestly, I think they
don't want to."
Jeanette Plummer's son Johnny--who says he was tortured by Chicago police at
age 15 into confessing to two murders he didn't commit--is one of the current
prisoners who won't get any action on his case because the commission shut
down operations. "They're going to let someone rot in jail because they're
trying to save money?" Jeanette Plummer said. "That's not fair. I'm a
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MARK CLEMENTS--who was also a teen when he was tortured into a confession by
Burge's men, and spent 28 years unjustly incarcerated before he was finally
released--has continued to fight for other Burge victims since winning his
freedom. He wants to know how legislators can cut off funding for
>Why would these men be denied hearings on their claim of torture by a
>government that proclaims throughout the world that it is a humane nation.
>Men such as Robert Allen, Harvey Allen, Javan Deloney, Grayland Johnson and
>many others sit confined inside a closet, which is called a prison cell,
>while Illinois state Legislators have said that their claims aren't worth
>investigating for $150,000.
>When elected officials are questioned about torture, they all appear to not
>accept this practice, but many seem to make a choice to be silent. Elected
>officials aren't in office to serve themselves--they're elected to their
>posts to serve the people.
>The only reason we ever got any justice in the first place around the Burge
>issue was because there was a lot of public pressure. We are going to have
>to continue to fight every inch of the way to win justice for these men.
>Defunding the commission is a slap in the face to all these family members
>and prisoners who have suffered endlessly for years without anyone reviewing
>their cases. I will not rest until we win justice.
July 19 will mark the sixth year since the release of the Cook County special
prosecutor's report on tortures by Burge and his subordinates. Clements and
other activists are calling for a solidarity march at 5 p.m. that day, from
the former Area Three violent crime unit at 3900 S. California to the Cook
County courthouse at 2600 S. California. We have to keep up the fight to win
justice for all torture victims in Chicago.
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