As groups across the country gather for the International Day on Support of Victims of Torture, there’s a call to restore funding to an Illinois commission dealing with torture matters. As people gathered in Chicago calling for an end of torture at places like Guantanamo Bay and prison the same request echoed with each speaker who delivered their message to a group gathered in front of the Thompson Center; restore funding to the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission. The commission saw its $150,000 in funding cut out of the states FY 2013 budget which begins July 1st.
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Attorney Neil Toppel sits on the commission and says while the commission still exists because of a 2009 state statute it no longer has the resources to do what it is charged with. “I don’t want to be part of something in name only,” Toppel said. “I don’t want to be window dressing. I want to be part of something real and sustainable. So I don’t want the State of Illinois to point and say ‘look we still have this commission, we’re still doing something’ when in fact they’re not.”
Laurie Jo Reynolds, organizer of Tamms Year Ten is happy that the governor is standing by his decision to close Tamms Supermax Prison after years of allegations of inhumane treatment of prisoners, but Reynolds says funding must be restored to the torture commission. “This is a stain on Illinois history and the funding must be restored for this commission so we can undue past wrongs and begin to heal,” Reynolds said. The torture commission was created in response to allegations that a Chicago Police commander and his subordinates tortured suspects into giving false confessions of guilt.