Thursday, March 29, 2012

Congressional Briefing on LETPA; 1-17-12

On Tuesday, January 17th, 2012, Congressmen Danny K. Davis, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Bobby L. Rush and Luis V. Gutierrez introduced, the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act of 2012 (LETPA) in the United States House of Representatives. That same afternoon, Congressman Danny K. Davis hosted a briefing on domestic acts of torture by individuals and groups that operate under the color of local, state, or Federal law. The briefing informed Members of Congress, their staff, the media, and public about the importance and need to prevent acts of torture on American soil and to generate support for the bill. Currently, there is no domestic law that pertains directly to law enforcement as it relates to torture. The only related law on the books refers to torture committed outside of the United States.


Rep. Danny K. Davis;
Flint Taylor, Peoples Law Office;
Darrell Cannon, torture survivor (via Skype);
Brigitt Keller, National Police Accountability Project- National Lawyers Guild


Rep. Danny K. Davis;
Lamar Bailey, American Friends Services Committee;
John 'Mac' Gaskins, Supporting Prisoners and Acting for Radical Change; torture survivor;
Cynthia Totten, Just Detention International;
Emily Tucker, Detention Watch Network

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stop Torture in U.S. Prisons by AFSC

National Organizations in Support of the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act

 National Organizations in Support of the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act

January 1, 2012

Dear Representative,

We, the undersigned national organizations, strongly urge you to support HR 3781, the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act (LETPA).   This legislation is presented in response to an act of gross abuse of power that occurred in Chicago over a 19 year period, from 1972 to 1991 (however, we are aware that similar abuses have taken place at other times around the country).  During that time, over 110 African American men and women were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The torture was intentionally inflicted to extract confessions, and techniques included electrically shocking men’s genitals, ears and lips with cattle prods or an electric shock box, anally raping men with cattle prods, suffocating individuals with plastic bags, mock executions, and beatings with telephone books and rubber hoses, as well as routinely depriving the victims of bathroom facilities, sleep and nourishment.

In 2008, the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, indicted Burge for two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury for lying in responses to interrogatories for which he was found guilty.  Burge claimed that neither he, nor others, engaged in acts of torture and abuse at Chicago Police headquarters.  However, although the U.S. Government acknowledges that Burge and other detectives engaged in a pattern and practice of torture, they cannot be prosecuted for their actual crimes of torture.  While there are federal laws that criminalize acts of torture that occur within U.S. territory, all have short statutes of limitations, and none of the statutes proscribe acts of torture as crimes of tortureIt is clear that the laws currently on the books were not sufficient to hold Burge or other detectives fully accountable for these heinous human rights violations.

Furthermore, the United States, as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has an obligation under Article IV to “ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law” and to “make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.” Thus, it is incumbent on the federal government to pass legislation that proscribes acts of torture as a crime of torture and employs the internationally accepted definition of torture codified in Article I of the UN Convention of Torture. 
 This crime, like the crime of murder, should be free of any statute of limitations due to grave nature of the offense and the importance of deterring others from committing these crimes and human rights violations.  The legislation proposed by Congressman Davis accomplishes these goals.  While Burge may have gotten away with his crimes of torture, no other law enforcement officer should believe they can abuse their power with impunity.


Center for Constitutional Rights
National Police Accountability Project
National Conference of Black Lawyers

The Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs
DC-Area Detention Visitation Network
Black August Planning Organization
Physicians for Human Rights
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Just Detention International


1/18/2012--Introduced. Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act of 2011 Amends the federal criminal code to impose a prison term of up to 10 years on any person who, acting under color of law, commits, or attempts or conspires to commit, torture. Increases such prison term to any term of years or life if death results from such torture. Defines "torture" to mean intentionally inflicting severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, on a person for such purposes as obtaining from that person or another person information or a confession, punishing that person, or intimidating or coercing that person or another person, or for any reason based on discrimination, but does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to lawful sanctions.

SPONSOR: Danny K. Davis [D-IL7]

CO-SPONSORS: Hansen Clarke [D-MI13], Luis Gutiérrez [D-IL4], Jesse Jackson [D-IL2], Sheila Jackson-Lee [D-TX18], Bobby Rush [D-IL1]

Legislation proposed to prevent domestic torture

Legislation proposed to prevent domestic torture News
National News
Legislation proposed to prevent domestic torture
By Askia Muhammad -Senior Correspondent-
Updated Jan 31, 2012 - 9:14:23 AM

WASHINGTON ( - On the heels of large White House demonstrations protesting prisoner torture by U.S. forces at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and Bagram Air Force Base Afghanistan, several Chicago-area Congress members have introduced legislation to outlaw torture by domestic law enforcement authorities in this country.

Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) joined forces Jan. 17, the day the House of Representatives convened for its second session of the 112th Congress, and introduced, “The Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act of 2012.”
There is no domestic law that pertains directly to law enforcement as it relates to torture, according to a statement from Rep. Davis’s office. The only related law on the books refers to torture committed outside of the United States.

“My legislation is designed to define and outlaw acts of torture—by individuals or groups of individuals—while operating under the color of local, state or federal,” Rep. Davis told The Final Call.

“I must say it was inspired, of course by the shenanigans that have occurred in Chicago, as well as other places throughout the country—but the Jon Burge case and situation in Chicago where it looked as though Jon Burge was going to escape because the statute of limitations had run out on the allegations that he had engaged in and perpetrated torture as a way of extracting confessions and information from individuals who had been accused of crimes,” Mr. Davis continued.

Interestingly, Mr. Davis pointed out, the Chicago City Council is considering a local ordinance which would make the city a “torture free zone,” which would declare that torture by anyone, including law enforcement officials would be outlawed.

Similarly, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) has already proposed a bill—H.R. 2189, the “Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2011”—that would require states to report on a quarterly basis information on the death of any person who is detained, under arrest, in the process of being arrested, en route to incarceration, or incarcerated.

Mr. Davis held a briefing so that experts, attorneys, and victims could inform Congress members, their staffs, and members of the public about the atrocities that take place inside prisons, including rape, particularly the rape of prisoners by guards, especially women.

Darrell Cannon for example, participated in the briefing. Mr. Cannon is a survivor who was personally tortured by Jon Burge, the former police commander who was accused of torturing more than 200 criminal suspects between 1972 and 1991. Mr. Burge was fired from the police department in 1993 after the accusations surfaced. In 2002 he was investigated, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Mr. Burge was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.

John Gaskins is another torture survivor who participated in the congressional briefing. Mr. Gaskins served 14 years in Virginia prisons during which time his fingers were broken multiple times. He was kept in 4-point restraints for days at a time, beaten, and attacked by dogs, according to Mr. Davis’s office.

Torture “is very widespread because in many instances law enforcement agencies have used—and that’s not to say that they all are doing it; that’s not to suggest that it’s done all of the time; that’s not to suggest that it’s as common as arresting people—but I think all of us know that it has been used, and is used in some instances rather routinely, to try and convince people to confess to crimes for which they have been accused,” Mr. Davis emphasized. “It’s far too much. It’s far too much.”

Others witnesses who were scheduled to testify at the briefing arranged by Mr. Davis included: Flint Taylor, Peoples Law Office; Brigitt Keller, NLG National Police Accountability Project; Lamar Bailey and Bonnie Kerness, American Friends Services Committee; Cynthia Totten, Just Detention International; and Emily Tucker, Detention Watch Network.

“I think we’re (now) getting some great attention, and attention of course, is often a prelude to action,” said Mr. Davis.