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Torture. When you think of torture, you think of Zero Dark Thirty and CIA interrogation of suspected terrorists.
Did you ever imagining it happening in your back yard? In Chicago, former police Commander Jon Burge and his "Midnight Crew" tortured over a 100 victims over a period of almost 20 years starting in 1972. The victims, mostly African-American men, reported that Burge and his gang used electric shocks, beatings, smotherings, and simulated Russian roulette to coerce confessions. Four of Burge's victims were sentenced to death after being tortured into giving false confessions. When Illinois Governor George Ryan left office, he pardoned the four men.
Forty years after the torture started, Chicago is making reparations.
Yesterday, the Chicago City Council, in a unanimous 42-0 vote, approved a $5.5 million reparation package for victims of police torture.
Eligible victims may receive up to $100,000. Additionally, the ordinance provides victims with free City Colleges tuition, counseling, job training and placement, and senior services. Probably most importantly, the ordinance would also require that eighth and 10th grade students in the Chicago Public School system would be taught about Burge and his torture scandal.
Burge was previously investigated for torture in the early 1990s. He was fired in 1993, but no criminal charges were filed against him. In 2002, a special investigator spent four years investigating Burge again. The special investigator found overwhelming evidence of torture, but could not file charges because the statute of limitations had run out.
The statute of limitation is the time limit after a crime in which prosecutors could bring charges. In Illinois, there is no separate crime of police torture. The law considers Burge's actions battery, and the statute of limitations for battery is only three years. In 1994, three years after the last known incident of torture, Burge could not be charged with any crime related to the torture.
In the same way Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion when the government couldn't convict him for his gang activity, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald charged Burge with perjury and obstruction of justice in 2010. Jon Burge was convicted and was sentenced to prison for 4 1/2 years. Burge has since completed his sentence and is now free.
Since Burge's conviction, a bill was introduced to make police torture of suspects a federal crime against humanity with no statute of limitation. If convicted under this law, officers could face up to 10 years in prison or life, if the torture resulted in death. Sadly, this bill was introduced twice, in 2011 and 2012, but died in Congress both times.
While money is small consolation for the pain and lost years the torture victims suffered, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the reparation plan as an essential step to right a wrong.
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