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Amanda Rivkin Photographs, Chicago Police Torture Survivors

Identifier: spe-c00184

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of twelve 16” x 24” giclée photographic portraits depicting survivors of torture performed by the Chicago Police Department. The portraits were taken over the course of approximately one year, from August 2015 to August 2016, and show the survivors in their present-day lives. One of the subjects, Marcus Wiggins (photograph 1.11) was still incarcerated when he was photographed, despite receiving a $95,000 settlement; Wiggins was released from prison in 2020. Photograph 1.10 is a tribute to Jesse Winston, who died while being tortured by four police officers; his death was officially ruled a suicide.

Each photograph has a label that includes the name of the survivor or victim accompanied by a paragraph describing his experience. These twelve portraits form a representative sample of Rivkin’s photographs of Chicago Police torture survivors, however additional photographs—not a part of this collection—are included in her larger body of work on the topic.


  • August, 2015-August, 2016


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the photographer. Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

From approximately 1972 to 1991, Chicago police officers, under the direction of former Area 2 and Area 3 Commander Jon Burge, engaged in systematic torture and abuse of over 100, primarily Black men. Burge and his “midnight crew” utilized extreme interrogation methods including beating, suffocating, burning and electrocution to elicit confessions, many of which were proven to be false.

Although allegations of abuse began early in Burge’s career, the extent of the actions committed by officers under his command did not start to fully emerge until the late 1980s. A 1990 investigation into Burge’s practices—prompted by both a series of anonymous letters sent to civil rights attorney Flint Taylor and reporting by Chicago Reader reporter John Conroy—found “systematic abuse” and “planned torture” in Area 2 and Area 3. The investigation led to Burge’s suspension in 1991 and eventual firing in 1993.

Over the next decade, survivors—most of whom were still incarcerated—began to come forward. Many were granted retrials, had their convictions overturned or were given monetary settlements by the city. In 2000, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the death penalty convictions of six men whose confessions had been coerced by torture tactics, and in 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan pardoned four additional men who were tortured into false confessions. A special prosecutor was assigned to the case in 2002, but after a four year investigation they failed to indict Burge despite finding evidence of widespread torture. Humanitarian and activist groups compelled the Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board of Commissioners to seek further action, and in 2007, the United States District Attorney announced a federal investigation. Burge was arrested on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2008. He was found guilty and sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

The Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission was launched by the Illinois legislature in 2009 to investigate claims of Burge-era torture; claims continued to be accepted and investigated by the Commission until 2019. In 2015, the Chicago City Council passed a $5.5 million reparations ordinance for survivors. The fund provided monetary compensation and additional City benefits to 57 men. No officers, other than Burge, ever faced charges related to the torture that took place in Area 2 and Area 3.

Amanda Rivkin is an American photographer, writer and researcher whose work has been featured extensively in publications in the United States and Europe, including The New York Times and Le Monde. Rivkin’s work is largely focused on “political, social and humanitarian issues” in her native Chicago, across the Midwestern United States and in Eastern Europe.

Following the passage of the 2015 reparations ordinance, Rivkin received a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation to photograph and record stories of the survivors of Burge-era torture. Her exhibit Burge Victims Speak photographs + audio by Amanda Rivkin (featuring photographs from this collection) was displayed at the Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center from November 20, 2018 to December 29, 2019. Rivkin’s goal for the project was to provide a forum for the men to share their experiences in their own words, and to facilitate sharing these stories with the public. She notes that most of her work centers in some way around “excesses of state power,” and she sees a direct parallel between this body of work and the reporting she has done around the world.


2 Linear Feet (in 1 oversize folder, includes 12 photographs)

Language of Materials



Twelve 16” x 24” portraits by photographer Amanda Rivkin depict present-day survivors of systematic torture by the Chicago Police Department, which occurred from approximately 1972 to 1991 under the direction of former Commander Jon Burge. Burge was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2010. In 2015, the Chicago City Council passed a reparations ordinance that provided monetary compensation and other benefits to victims of Burge-era torture. Following the passage of the ordinance, Rivkin received a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation to photograph and record the stories of the survivors.


Photographs are arranged alphabetically by subject. Each photograph has been assigned a number presumably by the photographer; the original numbering scheme has been maintained.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Photographs were found and donated in 2022 by Michael Kimmel with permission from the photographer, Amanda Rivkin.

Related Materials

Invisible Institute, Chicago Police Torture Archive



Guide to the Amanda Rivkin Photographs, Chicago Police Torture Survivors
Rachel Esser
July 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875