Reflections From Guest Speaker Darrell Cannon

Darrell Cannon is one of the best speakers that has come to our class, and one of the best speakers that I have ever heard. He was tortured by officers of the Chicago Police Department trained by Jon Burge. Jon Burge used torture tactics such as suffocation and even attaching electrical clips to men’s testicles to try to get them to confess. Another horrible torture tactic that Darrell Cannon described- a police officer loaded a gun (or made the sounds of loading a gun) and said they he would shoot Darrell Cannon if he did not confess. Mr. Cannon refused, and was forced to go through the trauma of thinking that he would be shot in the mouth three times in a row. The abuses that Mr. Cannon described made me cringe, they made me angry. The atrocities will always affect Mr. Cannon. He said that he will never be able to get over it.

Darrell Cannon works very diligently to tell people about the horrible crimes committed by Jon Burge and the other Chicago Police Department. He says that we need to “tell politicians that there will be no more coverups.” These abuses happened in the 1980s and are only now are they being investigated. Because it has been so long, Jon Burge can only be convicted of perjury, not for the actual crimes that he committed. We need to hold our politicians, judges, and police officers accountable retroactively and proactively.

Mr. Cannon then told us about his time in prison. He was convicted without any witnesses nor any evidence. While he was in prison, most of his family died. He spent 20 years in prison, 9 of which were spent at Tamms. Mr. Cannon told us many details about life in Tamms, which he says was a prison “designed to break you mentally and physically.” Tamms was built with the intention to make money and the Southern Illinois economy depends on Tamms. “Its all about economy” Cannon stated, “we are a commodity.” People do not learn to deal with anger, but instead they learn how to supress it. This is not a good strategy for reintegration into society. We also learned about some ingenious forms of communication among prisoners. Inmates play chess and speak to eachother without ever coming into contact with one another. I had always wondered about communication among prisoners in supermax prisons; if you can hear a guy screaming in the middle of the night, then you should be able to talk to him in some way. It turns out that people do. Inmates with cells across from eachother communicate by motions, and somehow inmates figure out how to play chess and cards.

I was very interested in what Mr. Cannon said about education programs in prison. He said that he got his GED, some college credits, and that he became a certified paralegal. He also told us that he wrote letters to as many legislators as possible, telling them of the injustices that he suffered. Only one legislator responded.

I was completely engrossed when Darrell Cannon was speaking. After class was over, I could not stop thinking about him and his experiences. I can’t imagine the torture that he went through, and I was very surprised by his good attitude. He wasn’t wholly optimistic, he definitely said that horrible, horrible things had taken place, but he still has a high value for life and for people. He is a very proactive person and he tells his story because he knows that people have to know it. I loved his outlook of irony about the situation. He chuckled to himself when he told us that he is a security guard now and that he has a badge. “It  was the badge that tortured me,” he said.

Darrell Cannon’s speaking clearly related to the conversation we were having in class before he arrived, a conversation regarding the death of Timothy Souders and accountability of the DOC, the media, and other groups. Who is accountable for the torture conducted under Jon Burge’s supervison? Well, of course Jon Burge and the police officers who actually performed the acts are responsible. We can also look to what Darrell Cannon said about political coverups. Anyone, especially legislators with the ability to affect change, who knew about the torture situation and did not do anything in response, should also be held accountable for the torture. Although this might be a little bit far fetched, I also think that America’s war complex is responsible for the torture. Jon Burge learned these tactics for use in the Vietnam War, and these tactics were used on people during that time. I think the fact that the tactics were used on anyone, even if during war, is disgusting. As Darrell Cannon emphasized, everyone has basic human rights that should not be violated. These tactics should have never been created, never been used, and never been reused to perpetuate racism and injustice.


One Response

  1. It is stories like these that make you wish we could change the system. yes they have committed crimes, but aren’t they still human?

    I understand that crimes should not go unpunished but these power games associated with torture and lies degrade us all, prisoner and authority.


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