Jon Burge Leaves Prison Today

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 2, 2014 2:25PM

Jon Burge, the former Chicago police commander whose name will forever be synonymous with police torture in Chicago, is expected to be released from a federal prison in North Carolina this morning.

Although Burge was never convicted of torturing police suspects due to the statute of limitations expiring on his crimes, he was convicted in June 2010 on one count of perjury and two counts of obstruction of justice for lying under oath about torturing suspects while at Area 2 police headquarters. He was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison in January 2011, more than the 15-21 months recommended by the federal probation sentencing board, but a far cry from the 24-30 years prosecutors sought. During his time at the federal correctional facility in Butner, North Carolina, Burge battled prostate cancer.

Burges systemic torture practices at Area 2 may not have ever seen the light of day if not for the work of former Chicago Reader reporter John Conroy, who stuck with the story for over 20 years when no one—the daily papers, public and politicians—cared. Conroy reflected on Burge at the time of his sentencing for the Better Government Association and had stern rebukes for the Cook County State’s Attorneys (Richard M. Daley, Jack O’Malley and Dick Devine) and police boards who most likely knew what was happening, bud did nothing to stop Burge and his cronies.

So what lessons can be learned here? Much of it comes down to the question posed by Plato and Juvenal: Who will guard the guards? Though the state’s attorney’s office’s role in the torture cases has been denounced for years, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has not sanctioned a single prosecutor or former prosecutor for looking the other way, for putting on perjured testimony, for seeking convictions instead of justice in the Burge cases. (Indeed, defense lawyers were mildly impressed when the agency recently brought a single Cook County prosecutor up on charges for courtroom offenses—a very rare event, but in this case, an event completely unconnected to the Burge cases.)

Burge will be allowed to travel on his own to a halfway house in the Tampa, Florida area. He won’t be hurting for money as a tie vote by the Police Pension Board allowed him to keep his pension. As of September 2013, the city has shelled out $85 million in taxpayer money to settle lawsuits brought by torture cases linked to Burge.