Monday, January 26, 2009

Chicago Defender: Burge victims to Blagojevich: Pardon us

From The Defender,

Afraid their appeals will fall on deaf ears if Gov. Rod Blagojevich is ousted, several relatives of victims tortured by former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge paid a visit to the governor’s office to ask for pardons.
Nathson Fields also hopes the governor hears his cry and grants pardons before Blagojevich is removed from office.

“I was wrongfully convicted for double murder and sent to Death Row. I was granted a new trial because the judge I had at the time, Thomas Maloney, got in trouble for taking a bribe. I’m out on a $100,000 appeal bond, paid by Aaron Patterson. I spent 18 years behind bars, 11-1/2 of that on Death Row,” Fields said.

Fields said he’s also looking for a pardon and for Tamms to be shut down.

“Tamms is the Guantanamo Bay of Illinois. It’s a torture camp,” he said.

I'm betting the Guv does....


Frank 11:34 AM  

Tamms is long overdue to be closed.

Anonymous,  11:35 AM  

It's time for all of us to stand up and say we will not tolerate torture in our name. No Burge torture, no Tamms torture.

KMurphy 12:11 PM  

Obama, McCain and 58% of the American public agree that torture is unacceptable under any circumstances. Let's show the rest of the world that our policies match our principles and bring an end to torture in Illinois.

Anonymous,  3:13 PM  

Where was Obama on Burge torture?

Nathan Fields looks like Ving Rhemes.

they 5:56 PM  

Tamms supermax prison has gone WAY off the map. Maybe in his MLK-Gandhi-Mandela inspired haze, Blago will do the right thing. We need someone to focus on good government in Illinois—if he is willing to do it, all the power to him.

At Tamms, men are in solitary 24-7. No phone calls, no contact visits, and no communal activity. They never leave their cells except to shower and to exercise alone in a concrete pen. Tamms was designed as a SHORT-TERM behavior modification program to make people break down, and then earn their way out. But, it hasn’t been short-term. One-third of the prison has been left there since it opened in 1998. Read the Gov. Edgar's 1993 Task Force Report on Crime and Corrections, the legislative impetus for building this prison. It warns that long-term isolation would be a MISUSE of this facility. Why? It acknowledges the humanitarian dangers of permanent solitary confinement. There is currently no way to earn your way out.

Tamms was supposed to be a swift justice for people who commit violence in regular prisons. It was called a one-year “shock treatment.” But many, even most, of the prisoners at Tamms were NOT placed there for committing acts of violence. According to the IDOC, they are there for their POTENTIAL to do so, a determination made without a fair hearing, without the presentation of evidence, and without any clear criteria. The category is called Administrative Detention. So why are they there? Many of the prisoners and their attorneys think it is retaliation for filing grievances, being “jailhouse lawyers,” or otherwise earning the wrath of a correctional officer or administrator. Seem farfetched? The IDOC Web page on Tamms Correctional Center flatly states that the unit houses "some of the most litigious inmates in the department's custody.” There has been a lawsuit against the IDOC on this issue since 2000.

The IDOC says they can’t provide information about why people are placed there—not to the prisoners, not to the public, not to legislators. Why not? For security reasons. (The House Prison Reform Committee has already asked.) They also can’t reveal to legislators how long men have been in Tamms, the rates of mental illness, numbers of suicide attempts, procedures for stepping-down from Tamms, or the criteria for deciding who is transferred in or out of Tamms. (For the latter, they have said it is a subjective case-by-case process, so that clears that up.) For those interested in the budget angle, the IDOC is unable to provide the cost per prisoner at the supermax (estimated at $90,000 per year). Since it opened, the prison has never been more than half-full. That is a good thing because less people are being tormented, except that it is not a very cost-effective way to run a prison. Statistics are also unavailable on what must be the staggering cost of mental health treatment in a place that induces mental illness in healthy people, and worsens it in mentally ill. The mental health staff to prisoner ratio is about 1:30. It is estimated that 10% of the prison is on psychotropic medications. What is the reason for keeping mentally ill people in this type of confinement? For not allowing them or anyone else to make phone calls for ten years? Security concerns.

For those who were actually sent there for an act of violence, when is the “shock-treatment” over? If they have already earned their way back to the highest behavior level, why can’t they return to a regular prison? Many of these prisoners were sent to Tamms years after such incidents, were NOT having disciplinary problems in regular institutions, and are not having behavior problems at Tamms. Hmmm...

To the IDOC’s credit, they have admitted that they are concerned about the length of stay for these prisoners, and say they are looking to step people down to other prisons at a faster rate.

PS. About one-third of the prisoners at Tamms will be released in the next ten years. Is it good public policy to drive them crazy and make them dysfunctional before they are released?

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