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Illinois Torture Commission To Shut Down After Unceremonious Funding Cut

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Flickr: Cameron Friedlander
Flickr: Cameron Friedlander

Now that former police Cmdr. Jon Burge is serving time for his involvement in coerced confessions, the state legislature has voted to slash funding to the torture commission formed to investigate the scandal, and related incidents of police brutality.

The Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission had anticipated receiving $235,000 in state funding to cover their expenses -- including a staff attorney -- a step up from last year's $150,000 budget, CBS Chicago reports. But with little explanation, both the Illinois House and Senate voted last week to cut the commission's entire budget, a decision that will force them to shut down June 30.

That $150,000 figure from last year's budget was already vastly stripped down from the $600,000 the commission expected, which members said in February bogged down their ability to process appeals and connect inmates with legal representation.

In light of the total shutdown, Mark Clements of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression told the Associated Press lawmakers should "be ashamed" of pulling support from the commission, which supported dozens of torture victims still in prison and released former convicts seeking damages. The commission was formed in 2009 to investigate allegations that Burge and the Chicago Police Department had tortured suspects to force confessions.

Since then, the commission led research that was crucial to Burge's conviction and helped manage reparations and launch new investigations supporting suspected victims of police misconduct.

The commission will still exist in name after the state drains its budget, which was minimal since the panel's eight voting members, including a former judge, a former prosecutor, a former public defender and three non-attorneys, were already unpaid, according to the Chicago Tribune.

On Tuesday, the commission will hand five cases with credible allegations over to Cook County's chief judge, dismiss four cases based on less solid evidence, and close their doors.

Photo by Cameron Freidlander on Flickr.

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