Dr. Reuben Jonathon Miller, Loyola Sociology Grad and MacArthur Genius Award Winner, Interviews Laurence Ralph, Author of Torture Letters
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About the book: Torture is an open secret in Chicago. No one in government wants to admit this grim reality, but everyone knows it happens – and that the torturers are the police. To Torture letters, Laurence Ralph chronicles the history of torture in Chicago, the burgeoning activist movement against police violence, and the American public’s complicity in continuing torture at home and abroad. An engagement with the long tradition of epistolary meditations on racism in the United States, from James Baldwin Fire next time to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the world and me, Ralph offers a collection of open letters written to protesters, victims, students, and others in this book. In these haunting, searching and furious letters, Ralph bears witness to the police violence that began in the second Burge’s area and traces the city’s torture networks to the global war on terror. From Vietnam to Geneva to Guantanamo Bay, Ralph’s story stretches back to the legacy of American imperialism. Combining insights from fourteen years of torture investigations with testimony from victims of police violence, retired officers, lawyers, and protesters, this is a powerful indictment of police violence and a fierce challenge to all Americans to demand an end to the systems that support it. . With compassion and meticulous craftsmanship, Ralph unravels the tangled connections between law enforcement, the political machine, and the courts in Chicago, amplifying the voices of torture victims who are still with us and giving voice to those long dead.
About the author: Laurence Ralph is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for International Policing at Princeton University. He is an author Renegade Dreams: Living with Injury in a Chicago Gangster (2014), which in 2015 received the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Animated short film Torture letters (2020) based on his book Torture Letters: Coming to terms with police violence (2020), was an official selection of many film festivals. The film received the “Best In Show” award at the Spark animation festival and was nominated for an Oscar in the category of animated films in 2021. For Oscar season.
About the interviewer: Reuben Jonathan Miller is an associate professor at the Crown Family School at the University of Chicago and an American Bar Foundation Research Professor. his book Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration (2021), based on 15 years of research and practice with currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, their families, partners, and friends in Chicago, Detroit, and many US cities. It was named in 2022. Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation.
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And this is an article detailing a secret prison in Chicago, back in 2015. I had a former student who was detained there and he helped expose the prison:
From the Guardian via Gawker:
In February, guardian released an in-depth investigation into Homan Square, a shadowy facility where the Chicago Police Department takes in suspects without booking them, entering them into any official database, or giving them access to a phone or a lawyer. New guardian the report says more than twice as many people “disappeared” in Homan than officials initially revealed… The newspaper obtained documents showing that between 2004 and 2015. More than 7,000 people were arrested at Homan, about 6,000 of whom were black. Less than one percent of those detained were allowed to meet with their lawyers during interrogations. Lawyers have described a system that seems deliberately designed to make it difficult to find their clients; others said they were turned away at the door. “Try looking up Homan’s phone number to see if anyone is there. You never can,” said attorney David Gaeger Guardian. “If you’re operating on the assumption that your client is working at Homan, there’s really not much you can do as a lawyer. You are closed. It is protected as a military object.
And from 2015 August. The Guardian reports:
Of the thousands of properties held at Homan Square over a decade, 82% were black. Only three received documented visits from a lawyer, according to a cache of documents obtained when The Guardian sued the police. The documents show that the detainees are a disproportionately minority group, many accused of low-level drug offenses who faced charges against themselves before their arrests appeared in a booking system that would allow their families and lawyers to find them.
One of my former students was arrested there:
From the guardian,
Marc Freeman is the 11th person to come forward to the Guardian detailing his detention in Homan Square and the first to be recorded by police detailing how long he was trapped inside. “I was never processed, I was never asked for information, they never fingerprinted me,” he said.
Here is John Oliver on the civil loss mentioned by Mr. Freeman:
Another troubling example is former Chicago Police Chief Jon Burge, who spent decades torturing suspects to get them to confess.
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