Illinois Defunds Torture Commission Just After It Finds Torture Problems

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On Tuesday the commission set up to investigate a Chicago police torture scandal dating to the 1970s finally made its first recommendations on what cases to bring to court, but yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reports, the Illinois legislature defunded the entire project. That doesn't bode well for the fate of the hundred or so allegations the commission hasn't examined.

Accusations that Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates gruesomely tortured suspects gained mass attention in 1982 when a man named Andrew Wilson came forward to say he was beaten, burned, and shocked, and after him, more than a hundred other black men came forward with similar stories. Burge was dismissed from the force and eventually went to prison and Wilson's death sentence was overturned by the state's Supreme Court. So obviously, Chicago already knows it had a longstanding torture problem.

But in case they needed more proof, they had this commission set up in 2009 to investigate other people's claims of police torture. Then, just as the commission was confirming that in fact five of the first claims they investigated were "credible," the state cut bait on the project. Especially unpleasant in all this is that although they won't have any money to follow up on their first recommendations, the law calling for a commission will remain on the books. David Thomas, the commission's executive director, tells the Tribune, "Theoretically, you still have a torture commission. So they can feel good about themselves but not spend any money to fulfill the promise." Lest any Illinois legislators out there be feeling good, we're here to point out that having a commission with zero dollars doesn't really count.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.