Torture

In many ways, Chicago is the symbol of domestic American torture as the home to former Chicago police commander Jon Burge. From 1972 to 1991, nearly 110 proven African American men and women tortured by Burge and his detectives at Area 2 and 3 police headquarters in Chicago.  The torture, which was intended to extract confessions, included electric shocks to men’s genitals, ears, and lips; anal rape with cattle prods; suffocation; mock executions, beatings, and routine deprivation of bathroom facilities, food and sleep. This torture has not gone unnoticed: the UN Committee Against Torture has cited the allegations of torture against Burge and other police officers as an item for inclusion in the United States 2011 report to the Committee. While Burge was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury regarding the torture in a civil trial, American laws are still insufficient to address domestic torture.

Illinois is also home to Tamms Correctional Facility – a supermax prison, which places each of its prisoners in solitary confinement. Although the prison was opened in 1998 for purposes of short-term solitary confinement, the Illinois Department of Corrections has kept over 88 men in confinement since the prison’s opening. Prolonged solitary confinement has been documented to both cause and exacerbate mental illness in prisoners, and is a form of psychological torture. While the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights deemed the prolonged solitary confinement of Guantanamo detainees as “inhuman” and the European Convention on Human Rights condemned “sensory deprivation” as “inhuman or degrading treatment,” the US continues to ignore its supermax prisons as institutionalized domestic torture.

Perhaps the most well-known form of American torture is the torture of non-citizens abroad – at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Gharaib, and at CIA black sites around the world.  While torture as an interrogation technique is debated, former military interrogators continually argue against torture as an effective interrogation method. While American policy under the Bush administration constituted terror and violated the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Bush officials remain unindicted for the violations.

Find out more information about torture issues from our partners, including:

Black People Against Police Torture: BPAPT was organized to lead the resistance within the African American Community against police torture in Chicago.

Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression: CAARPR was founded to organize against unjust treatment of individuals because of race or political beliefs, and continues to organize around various issues, including police torture.

Chicago Copwatch: Chicago Copwatch is part of a national network of organizations observing and documenting police conduct. “Copwatchers” go out on foot or driving patrols in their communities and videotape interactions between police and civilians.

Defending Dissent Foundation: The Defending Dissent Foundation works to protect and advance the right of dissent. They alert local activists to civil liberties threats, and make sure the concerns of activists are heard in Washington.

Illinois Coalition Against Torture: ICAT is an association of individuals and community-based organizations working to end U.S. torture by state actors at all levels of government at home and abroad.

National Religious Coalition Against Torture: NRCAT is a membership organization of religious organizations committed to ending U.S. sponsored torture, and focuses on torture abroad and the U.S. prison system.

Tamms Year Ten: Tamms Year Ten is a grassroots all-volunteer coalition that came together to protest the misguided and inhumane polices at Tamms, and continues to advocate on behalf of prisoners for legislative change.

Related Items