Peter C. Baker is a freelance writer in Evanston, Illinois. His pieces have been published in The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. (July 2020)

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A Legacy of Torture in Chicago

Police officers at the scene of a shooting on the North Side of Chicago, 2009

The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence

by Laurence Ralph
Chicago has a police torture problem. The exact size of this problem is not known and perhaps never will be. What is known for sure is that between 1972 and 1991 at least 125 black Chicagoans were tortured by police officers in a building on the city’s predominantly black South Side. They were tortured into confessing, and sometimes tortured more afterward; these confessions were used to send them to prison, and in some cases to death row. During the recent wave of protests set off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, it was obvious that, for many in Chicago, the city’s legacy of police torture was a palpable presence, informing the protesters’ anger—but also their anxiety about the fate of their arrested comrades.