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Advocacy groups celebrate Gerald Reed’s commutation but urge governor to do more

They are advocating to continue the fight to free incarcerated survivors of police torture.

Gerald Reed speaks to supporters and reporters outside Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, right after he was released, Friday, April 2, 2021.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The Chicago Torture Justice Center and other advocacy groups on Monday celebrated Gerald Reed’s sentence commutation but called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to do more for survivors of torture still behind bars.

Reed, sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of a double murder in 1990, was released from Stateville Correctional Center on Friday after Pritzker commuted Reed’s sentence Thursday.

Reed has insisted he was tortured and framed by detectives working for disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge. The governor’s decision followed a petition saying that Reed faced serious health risks from the spread of the coronavirus in prison.

“This is a dream come true. I always told my family members that I’d come home, but I was wondering when,” said Reed during a Monday news conference.

“I left part of my heart back there [in prison]… It’s hard leaving somebody behind, and on top of that, they are innocent as well and they don’t have the same attention I have. My shoutout is for them. My cry is for them,” he said.

The Chicago Torture Justice Center and other advocacy groups held a news conference Monday involving Gerald Reed and some of his supporters.
The Chicago Torture Justice Center and other advocacy groups held a news conference Monday involving Gerald Reed and some of his supporters.

The Campaign to Free Incarcerated Survivors of Police Torture called on Pritzker to release those incarcerated who have credible accounts of torture reported by The Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission.

“You can let them out with a stroke of a pen, so don’t be a part of the crime, be a part of the solution,” said Frank Chapman, from the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which initiated the campaign.

“This fight did not stop with Gerald, it didn’t even start with Gerald. This fight continues on,” said Troi Valles, a member of the campaign.

Armanda Shackleford, Reed’s mother, thanked all those who helped in the fight to free her son, saying that the fight wasn’t just for him.

Sheila Bedi, one of Reed’s attorneys, cited over 100 tortured survivors currently behind bars and tens of thousands incarcerated in Illinois, “and not everyone has an Armanda who can spark the movement,” she said.

Though Reed was released, he remains convicted of double murder.

Elliot Zinger, one of Reed’s attorneys, said they have filed a writ of mandamus in the state Supreme Court seeking to reverse the ruling of Cook County Judge Thomas Hennelly and remove the special prosecutor.

Special Prosecutor Robert Milan had been former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine’s top deputy who, based on a 2002 ruling, had a conflict of interest with the case because Devine represented Burge as a private attorney before his election.

“We are attempting to have the convictions vacated once again,” Zinger said.