Chicago's Abu Ghraib

Let's not forget prisoner abuse begins at home.

It's called Area 2. And for nearly two decades beginning in 1971, it was the epicenter for what has been described as the systematic torture of dozens of African-American males by Chicago police officers. In total, more than 135 people say they were subjected to abuse including having guns forced into their mouths, bags places over their heads, and electric shocks inflicted to their genitals. Four men have been released from death row after government investigators concluded torture led to their wrongful convictions.

Yet the case around Area 2 is nowhere near a resolution -- to date, not one Chicago police officer has been charged with any crime.

An investigation has been ongoing for four years and last week police officers blocked the release of the proseuctors' report. They filed a motion to suppress the report because it contains their names and they haven't been indicted. The Judge has the motion under advisement.

The investigation has cost more than $2 mllion to date. Lawyers for the inmates say higher-ups could be implicated.

Attorneys and advocates representing the torture victims say the treatment under Burge could also implicate then-State's Attorney Richard M. Daley - now mayor - and his assistant, current Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine.

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  • Re: Chicago's Abu Ghraib (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed May 10, 2006 at 09:53:10 PM EST
    I spent 18 mos. in the early '90s in a courtroom that heard the first appearance for murder suspects in Chicago. We routinely got defendants with injuries inflicted by Commander Burges' homicide detectives (and others not under his command). The worse the case, the worse the injuries. The system covered up for these guys even though everyone knew what was going on. I will never forget those detectives, how sure they were that they were doing the right thing. People are capable of anything if they believe they are doing the right thing. By all accounts, this practice has gone on for as long as the CPD has existed, and was taught by each generation of detectives to the next one. I grew up in a law enforcement family, and was horrified at this perversion of our system. I can only hope Fitz will send them all to jail where they belong, and put an end to this practice as activists, citizens, and even reformers within the CPD have been trying to do for at least 20 years. When Gov. Ryan commuted all of those death sentences to life in 2000, I of course was supportive. But the problem no one addressed is that there are many more people, perhaps hundreds of them, serving life sentences in Illinois based on false confessions obtained through torture. Their cases won't be reviewed because they didn't get the death penalty, and don't have such a high profile. Abu Ghraib was a an outrage worthy of war crimes prosecutions in the Hague. Unfortunately, it is not an aberration in our history. Many other U.S. cities have a similar history to that of Chicago. The only thing that makes the torture at Abu Ghraib unusual is that it got a lot of press coverage, all because they had novices doing it who were foolish enough to take pictures. Experienced torturers like Commander Burge and his detectives would never have made such a mistake.

    Re: Chicago's Abu Ghraib (none / 0) (#2)
    by jondee on Wed May 10, 2006 at 10:43:44 PM EST
    Here in Rochester we had "Father" Mahoney: so named because he always got a confession. This kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time. And not always just with adult defendants; many times its been juveniles. Read the "confession" (if you can stomach it) of the notorious murderer Carl Panzram and his account of the horrific disciplinary measures used in juvenile detention facilities in the earlier part of the last century; or, the account of the cat burgler Jack Black in "You Cant Win" of more of the same. What we have, in many cases, is a legacy of institutionalized brutality and sadism and a somnambulic bureaucracy and public that passivly enables this state of affairs. What did that bleeding heart Dostoyevsky say about the relation between the state of prisons and the state of society?