CHICAGO (CBS) -- More than three months after aldermen approved a $5.5 million fund to provide reparations to victims of police torture, the deadline to apply for restitution has passed, and the process has begun to decide who gets a share of the pot.
"We've received approximately 57 claims back," said Daniel Coyne, a criminal law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, who was appointed to screen the applications and conduct an independent review to determine the legitimacy of all claims.
In May, the City Council approved a deal to set up a $5.5 million reparations fund to pay restitution of up to $100,000 each to people with credible claims of torture by disgraced former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives. (Burge was released from a halfway house in February, after spending 4 ½ years in federal custody, following his conviction for lying about the torture of criminal suspects in from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, when he was fired from the police department.)
Only torture victims who have not received a previous settlement from the city can receive a portion of the reparations fund. They must also agree never to sue the city over the torture allegations.
Among the criteria Coyne is looking for is "whether there was a contemporaneous or early report made of the torture, or the abuse; whether that report has been consistent over time; and whether there's any affirmative proof rebutting the claim."
Coyne said it's a painstaking process.
"It is a detail-oriented process that involves not only evaluating the initial claim form, and application; but also going back and looking at court records, court transcripts, what we call common-law records from the original arrest and conviction," he said.
He said he hopes to have the process completed by October 1.
Several claimants currently are in prison, and if eligible would get reparations just like anyone else.
Coyne said receiving reparations should not have any legal impact on an appeal of their conviction.
In addition to financial reparations, torture victims also can receive a number of services for themselves and their families – including free job training and tuition at the City Colleges of Chicago; and psychological, family, substance abuse, and other counseling.
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