Chicago to Pay $5.5 Million in Reparations for Police Torture Victims
Chicago made history today as the first municipality in the United States to pass legislation providing reparations for victims of police torture. The landmark policy will allot financial compensation to the mostly African-American men tortured from 1972 to 1991 under Area 2 Commander John Burge and his infamous “midnight crew.” The legislation gives victims access to psychological counseling, education and job training, and mandates that public schools teach about the torture; a permanent memorial will also be erected in the city.
More than 100 victims are estimated to have been subjected to heinous abuse under Burge and his cohorts, and still suffer from the psychological aftermath. “People were electrically shocked on their genitals, people were suffocated with plastic bags, people were beaten with telephone books and flat jacks, others were subjected to mock execution,” including via stimulated Russian roulette, Joey Mogul, an attorney who has worked with victims of Chicago police torture for 18 years, tells Rolling Stone.
“In some cases [the torture] led to false confessions,” Mogul says. One of those cases was that of Mark Clements, who was arrested at age 16 for allegedly starting a fire that killed four people in 1981. “I had my genitals grabbed and squeezed – that is, of course, after I had been beat by a detective that worked under John Burge,” Clements tells Rolling Stone. Clements confessed in order to stop the torture, and then was sentenced to life without parole. He spent 28 years in prison before a professor working on a juvenile innocence project helped secure his release and clemency.
The fund will provide up to $100,000 for dozens of credible victims who have not sued or cannot do so due to an expired statute of limitations.
Most important to advocates, however, is that the torture and suffering of black communities in Chicago has become entrenched in the city’s history, and now some measure of healing can begin for victims and their families.
“Many torture survivors as well as family members tell us to this day that they are suffering from the torture that occurred. They have flashbacks and nightmares and they really need help,” says Mogul.
The free counseling, education and job training services will also apply to the families of victims, including grandchildren, helping to undo the systemic burdens state violence has inflicted on communities. It’s landmark legislation that may provide a template for organizers advocating for justice for police violence in cities across the country.
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