Reparations Won

After decades of organizing, litigation, and investigative journalism seeking justice for those tortured and harmed by Burge and his men, Black People Against Police Torture (BPAPT) made an initial call for reparations for the survivors in 2008.  In January of 2011, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) formed in response to this call asking torture survivors and the larger community to imagine how they would publicly memorialize the survivors and the struggle for justice, one form of reparation.  

After holding several community events across the city and seeking input from Burge torture survivors and their family members, CTJM drafted a reparations ordinance seeking a holistic set of redress that was filed in Chicago’s City Council by Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins on October 16, 2013.

CTJM then joined forces with Amnesty International, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, to lead an inspiring multiracial and intergenerational campaign, waged within the larger context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, to pass the reparations legislation in Chicago’s City Council (#RahmRepNow).

On May 6, 2015, the Chicago City Council passed the Reparations for Burge Torture Victims Ordinance and accompanying resolution that included:

  1. A formal apology from the Mayor and City Council for the torture committed by Burge and his men;
  2. A history curriculum on the Burge torture cases to be taught to all Chicago Public School students in the 8th and 10th grade;
  3. A permanent public memorial acknowledging the torture committed by Burge and his men;
  4. Provision of counseling services to police torture survivors and family members at a facility on the South Side of Chicago;
  5. Free tuition at Chicago’s City Colleges for Burge torture survivors, their family members, including their grandchildren;
  6. Job placement for Burge torture survivors in programs for formerly incarcerated people;
  7. Priority access to City of Chicago’s re-entry support services, including: job training and placement, counseling, food, & transportation assistance, senior care, health care, and small business support services;
  8. The creation of a Reparations fund of $5.5 million to provide up to $100,000 to the eligible Burge torture survivors who are still with us today. 57 men were given these funds.   

The passage of this legislation marks the first time in U.S. history that a city has passed legislation providing reparations, including financial compensation, for police violence.

What are reparations?

Reparations is a legal term under international law that requires a State party to provide holistic redress for the commission of gross human rights violations.  Adequate reparations include:

  • Restitution (restoring the victim to the original situation before he, she or they were violated),
  • Financial compensation,
  • Rehabilitation (includes medical and physical care, legal and social services),
  • Satisfaction (public apologies, public commemoration and memorialization),
  • Guarantees of non-repetition