Facts at a Glance


Between the years of 1972 and 1991, approximately 135 African-American men and women were arrested and tortured at the hands of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command at Area 2 police headquarters. Some of these victims were as young as thirteen years old. Various court cases have established that the methods of torture used in the interrogation of suspects included electric shock to the ears and genitalia, mock executions, suffocation, and burning. While Jon Burge was ultimately fired by the Chicago Police Department, not a single perpetrator of the tortures has ever been criminally prosecuted.

These incidents were not isolated and allegations of abuse by Burge continue to surface. In fact, the Area 2 cases are seen by many observers as part of a pattern and practice of racially-motivated police brutality in Chicago that has been revealed over the course of many years. This site is devoted to telling the stories of the Area 2 victims and seeking justice for those without a voice.

Today, over two decades have passed since the first allegations of torture by Chicago police officers surfaced. Many of the allegations have been acknowledged to be credible. For example, Judge Milton Shadur of the U.S. District Court (N.D. Ill.) found that:

“It is now common knowledge that in the early to mid-1980s Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and many officers working under him in the physical abuse and torture of prisoners to extract confessions.” U.S. ex rel. Maxwell v. Gilmore 37 F. Supp.2d 1078 (N.D. Ill. 1999)

And yet—Jon Burge and his fellow torturers remain free. None of the perpetrators have faced a criminal trial. How has this grave impunity transpired? What does the future hold for Burge and his accomplices?

Please explore our site to find more information and learn what is being done to help bring justice to the Area 2 victims and their families.

This archive, an on-going project, is the result of a joint effort by Human Rights Program faculty and staff, Students for Human Rights, the MacArthur Justice Center, the People's Law Office, and attorneys who have contributed their time and energy to working on these cases. The archive is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Robert Kirschner (1940-2002), an internationally recognized forensic pathologist, a founder of the University of Chicago Human Rights Program and faculty member of the Medical School. Dr. Kirschner played an essential role in the documentation of torture in these cases.