Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Breaking: Feds Arrest ex-cop Burge

Breaking: Feds Arrest ex-cop Burge
Chicago Tribune, October 21, 2008
[ http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2008/10/feds-arrest-ex-chicago-cop-burge.html ]

Retired Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge was arrested at his home near Tampa, Fla., today on charges of lying in a civil case about whether he and other officers under his command tortured and physically abused suspects in police custody dating back to the 1980s, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Burge was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury in a three-count indictment unsealed today following his arrest.

The charges alleged that Burge lied and impeded court proceedings in November 2003 when he provided false written answers to questions in a civil lawsuit alleging that he and others engaged in torture and abuse of suspects.

Burge, 60, now living in Apollo Beach, Fla., near Tampa, was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Tampa at 1 p.m. Chicago time.

"There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station," said U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in a news release. "There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits. No person is above the law, and nobody--even a suspected murderer--is beneath its protection."

The investigation is continuing, authorities said.

A special prosecutors' report paid for by Cook County and released in 2006 concluded that dozens of suspects had been tortured by Chicago police but that no one could be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out.

Today's indictment gets around that legal problem by charging Burge with perjury, not with any instances of actual torture.

Burge denied any torture took place while answering written questions in 2003 as part of the lawsuit filed by one of the alleged victims, Madison Hobley.

According to the indictment, the Hobley lawsuit included a specific allegation that police officers placed a plastic bag over Hobley's head until he lost consciousness.

The indictment cites the questions and answers during the civil questioning, noting that Burge was asked whether he ever used torture methods--including beatings, the use of restraints or machines to deliver electric shocks--or whether other officers were involved.

Burge objected to the question as overly broad, and then answered: "I have never used any techniques set forth above as a means of improper coercion of suspects while in detention or during interrogation."

In January, the city approved a $20 million settlement with four alleged torture victims.

According to the indictment, Burge was a Chicago police officer from 1970 to 1993, a detective at Area 2 police headquarters on the South Side from 1972 to 1974, and an Area 2 sergeant from 1977 to 1980.

From about 1981 to 1986 he was a lieutenant and supervisor of detectives in the Area 2 violent crimes unit. Later, he was commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit and later commander of Area 3 detectives.

He was suspended by the police department in 1991 and fired in 1993.

--Jeff Coen and Angela Rozas, Chicago Tribune

Friday, October 17, 2008

ACLU: Federal death row inmates denied health care

ACLU: Federal death row inmates denied health care

Death row inmates at the federal prison in Terre Haute are routinely denied access to medical, dental and mental health care, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday in a letter to a governmental official.

One diabetic prisoner showing symptoms of high blood sugar had to wait two hours to be treated with insulin, the ACLU said after a yearlong investigation. And some prisoners with dental problems chose simply to have all their teeth removed rather than suffer pain while waiting for complicated procedures, it said.

The probe by the ACLU's National Prison Project uncovered "grossly inadequate" conditions that "fail to meet constitutional standards and jeopardize the health and safety" of the more than 50 inmates awaiting execution at the prison, the organization said in the letter to Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

"The Constitution prohibits deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners, including those sentenced to die," ACLU attorney Gabriel B. Eber said in a news release. He called on officials to "do whatever is necessary" to correct the problems.

Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Ponce said she could not comment because she was not sure whether Lappin had seen the letter.

Eber said his investigation included interviews with prisoners and a review of hundreds of pages of prison records.

According to the letter, prison officials do not promptly respond to medical emergencies, provide "woefully deficient" access to acute health care and consistently ignore signs of possibly serious medical conditions. It cited one instance of an inmate pressing an emergency call button in his cell for 45 minutes before receiving attention for a heart problem.

It took 3 hours for a doctor to arrive and for the prisoner to be taken to the prison hospital, and another 5 days before the prisoner received his 1st dose of medication prescribed by a cardiologist.

"The failure of prison officials to adequately respond to the medical emergencies of prisoners, and to ensure proper access to critical medications, is inexplicable and could well result in prisoner deaths," Eber said.

One inmate who was denied mental health treatment asked for immediate execution, the letter said. It also said inmates are subjected to intense noise that results in sleep deprivation and "significant psychological distress."

(source: Associated Press)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tamms Prison Keeps Prisoner Secluded-Posted By Beauty

Isolated from the Real World

Tamms prison keeps prisoners secluded

by Silvana Tabares

Imagine being in a top-security prison cell in permanent solidarity confinement 24/7 with absolutely no human contact. This is the situation at Tamms C-Max (Closed Maximum Security) prison, where approximately 200 prisoners don’t know why they are there or when they will be released. Tamms prison is located in Tamms, a village in Southern Illinois, about 365 miles or almost six hours away from the Chicago area.
According to a medical expert, the ramifications of isolation can have an effect on a human’s mental state of mind. A coalition of activists are advocating for a bill that would enforce regulation at Tamms prison.
Steve Martínez, 40, has a brother (whose name was asked to be withdrawn from this story) who is incarcerated in Tamms. At age 18, his brother was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of murder. He is now 38 and has been in solidarity confinement at Tamms for the past eight years.
Martínez said his brother was transferred to Tamms without notice or an explanation. He said his brother should serve his sentence, but not in solidarity confinement. He is concerned about his brother’s ability to function socially when he is released – given the known tendency of prolonged isolation to cause mental deterioration.
“These are not only prisoners, but they are people that are being isolated in a cell for years,” Martínez said. “They are warehousing people. Nobody knows about them. No evaluations [are] being done.”
Martínez’ significant other, Bernadette Maciel, is an advocate of the Supermax Legislation Reform Bill, HB6651. She is an active member of the Tamms Year Ten campaign, a coalition of prisoners, ex-prisoners, families and concerned citizens who are protesting the policies at Tamms. If approved, the bill will allow prisoners to remain at Tamms for no more than a year.
“Men have been there more than a year,” Maciel said. “Those men don’t know how to interact with other people.”
The legislation wouldn’t allow prisoners with a serious mental illness to be sent to Tamms.
Terry Kupers, M.D., is a psychiatrist and an expert witness on prisons and prisoner’s mental health. He said social interaction in prisons is needed.
“They are not taking part in activities to succeed when they get out,” Kupers said.
He said isolation brings negative percussions and if left untreated, can lead to long lasting negative effects.

Facts about Tamms
C-Max prison
• Tamms opened in March 1998 as a “supermax” prison intended for short-term incarceration.
• One hundred of the men now at Tamms have been there since the prison opened in 1998 – 10 years ago.
• Many men at Tamms have no record of prison violence or disciplinary problems.
• Taxpayers spend between $60,000 and $100,000 a year to keep a man in Tamms. It costs three to five times as much as it costs to keep someone in a maximum-security prison.

For more information about Tamms prison, visit @link href='http://www.yearten.org'>www.yearten.org and @link href='http://www.idoc.state.il.us'>www.idoc.state.il.us.