The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago

Flint Taylor. Haymarket, $27 (350p) ISBN 978-1-60846-895-9
In this harrowing story of abuse and courage, Taylor, an attorney and advocate for victims of police violence, recounts how Chicago police—led by the late Jon Burge, a commander in the police department who was fired in 1993—tortured roughly 120 black men into confessing (often falsely) to crimes in the 1970s and ’80s. Taylor argues that there was a pattern of torture and that city officials, attorneys, and judges all shielded the perpetrators from discipline through institutionalized subterfuge and a police code of silence. Taylor and others got commuted sentences for victims who had been sentenced to death based solely on confessions extracted during torture, worked toward the eventual abolition of the death penalty in Illinois, and won settlements for many of the victims whose lives were spent in prison. After 30 years of legal battles for the rights of the tortured, overwhelming evidence and public opinion put pressure on the Chicago city government to admit to the torture and cover-ups and finally offer reparations to those targeted. This is sometimes difficult to read, due to the descriptions of brutal treatment, but Taylor writes with conviction and empathy, and the events covered will be of interest to audiences concerned with the history of police brutality and activism against oppression. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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