Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson Jr. and Bobby Rush have introduced H.R. 5688, the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act, to the U.S. House of Representatives. The law would create a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for anyone who, “acting under color of local, State, or Federal law, commits or attempts or conspires to commit torture”. Those who inflict torture resulting in death would have a sentence up to life in prison.
The bill was inspired by the trial of Chicago police officer Jon Burge, who was accused of torturing 110 people into giving false confessions. Many of those people were put in prison, even on death row, as a result of those confessions, and only after a great deal of time were their convictions overturned.
Congressman Davis explained, “While there are federal laws that criminalize acts of torture that occur within the United States territory, they all have short statutes of limitations and none of these statutes prescribe acts of torture as crimes of torture. The federal laws generally used to prosecute law enforcement officers who use excessive force bar those acting under color of law from depriving or conspiring to deprive persons of their constitutional rights. Certainly, a crime of torture committed by a law enforcement official violates a personâ€™s rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, with respect to the Burge case, he could not be prosecuted under these statutes because the five year statute of limitations for these laws have expired. Had this bill been in effect, former Chicago Police Detective Jon Burge would be guilty of torture and not just perjury.”