A recent municipal ordinance giving reparations to survivors of police torture in Chicago represents an unprecedented effort by a city government to repair damage wrought by decades of police violence. Between 1972 and 1991, white detectives under Commander Jon Burge tortured confessions from over 118 black criminal suspects on the city’s South and West Sides. Responding to the needs of affected communities, a coalition of torture survivors, their families, civil rights attorneys, and community activists pushed the reparations bill through the City Council on May 6, 2015. Representing the holistic approach favored by survivors, the $5 million reparations package awarded some 57 claimants $100,000 each in financial payments; privileged access to psychological counseling, healthcare, and vocational training; as well as tuition-free enrollment in City Colleges for themselves, their children, and grandchildren. The ordinance also required the City offer an apology, erect a public memorial, create a community center to provide services for victims of police violence, and develop a public-school curriculum to teach the Burge scandal to local schoolchildren. Applying concepts developed by Bernadette Atuahene, this essay argues that the Chicago police torture cases represent a dignity taking designed to dehumanize and infantilize local black people. It also posits the 2015 reparations ordinance as a promising new precedent for dignity restoration in cases of police violence in the United States. Despite limitations of scope and scale, Chicago’s reparations ordinance models ways to include survivors of police violence in the process of repair, commemoration, and education.
Andrew S. Baer,
Dignity Restoration and the Chicago Police Torture Reparations Ordinance,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol92/iss3/6