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Did torture put you in prison? Too bad

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prison-72.jpgSitting in an Illinois prison because someone tortured a confession out of you? Sorry, the state doesn't have enough money to do much about that.

That's not what anyone thought three years ago, when a bill creating a new commission was signed into law. Or two years ago, when Illinois appointed commissioners to the new Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission. Or last year, when the commission hired its first executive director.

But late last month, funding for the commission was one of the casualties of budget-cutting in Springfield.

The commission was created after years of controversy over former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, who was accused of overseeing the torture of more than 200 prisoners to extract confessions. Its goal is to show the state is committed to "fairly and impartially investigating a claim by any person who alleges that he or she has been tortured into making a false confession, and that the confession was used to obtain a conviction for that crime."

Since the commission started accepting claims in April of last year, more than 100 people have said they are sitting in prison because they were tortured into talking. The commission is scheduled to make recommendations - its first - on nine of those cases Tuesday. Five of them involve cases the commission considers worth further examination.

But we may never know if their complaints are valid.

Some of the work was done by five private law firms, who were enlisted to help out pro bono. But those law firms won't have any legal framework to work within without the commission.

The commission isn't an especially huge cost for the state. Its expenses pretty much are the salaries of the executive director and a secretary. The entire Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which ends June 30, was $150,000.

But, of course, the same can be said of many other worthy undertakings that lost their place in the state budget because there just isn't enough money to go around. Technically, the commission will still exist, but the people who do the investigating won't be around.

That won't be much comfort to any prisoner who really was tortured and is seeing a possible avenue of hope come to a dead end.

UPDATE: Kelly Kraft, Gov. Pat Quinn's budget spokeswoman, on Monday said the Quinn administration proposed a $235,000 budget for the torture commission for Fiscal Year 2013, but the General Assembly appropriated just $0.

"We do not have the authority to restore funding to the budget but we feel the issue needs further examination," Kraft said in an e-mail.

Kraft also said the commission is just one of many items getting squeezed because "our pension challenges" have not been resolved in Springfield.

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4 Comments

This is so stupid. How much is it costing us to keep people in jail who didn't actually commit the crimes they were accused of? Also, what about the perps who actually committed those crimes? How many of them are still running around loose, committing other crimes?

Adding to Ricardo's comment: To say nothing about people being tortured, and possibly innocent people being imprisoned. This is neither effective or just and is in fact counterproductive, adding to worldwide resentment and hatred.

The fact of the matter is this, the forming of the Commission was a hoast, a joke on the people who believe in Human Rights, fairness in the Court system and a chance to go after the one's who took part in the tortures and those who covered up the tortures, former mayor Daley and former Cook County States Attorney Dick Devine, Judge Kunkle and other former/ present Asst Cook County States Attorneys

It is once again a black eye toward the African American and Latino community when it comes to TORTURE!. Men were taken to area two and three police station and beat and tortured in unthinkable ways by Jon Burge and his subordinates. Once Burge had been fired in 1993 he remained untouched for his crimes until 2008 when he was indicted for lying about tortures in the city of Chicago that took place inside police station interrogation rooms. 23 Burge torture victims remain incarcerated. Their hope have rested in the hands of the Illinois Torture Commission.

Illinois Legislators and Governor Patrick Quinn have made a choice to not fund the torture commission leaving at risk innocent men who are doubtful to have no remedies in State or Federal courts because they have adjudicated their remedies years before the release of the Cook County Special Prosecutor Report which found that Burge and many of his subordinates committed torture upon criminal suspects to gain incriminating confessions.

The Campaign to End Torture, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and Campaign to End the Death Penalty strongly rebuke Illinois elected officials for not seeing the need to want to fund a commission that serve's as a fact finder in reaching torture of men claims that they were tortured while in police custody. We strongly believe that Illinois elected officials must fund this commission and until the money is restored one must wonder if Illinois Government supports the torture that Burge committed toward men and women inside police stations.

Mark A. Clements,
Chairperson
Campaign to End Torture

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