More than 7,000 people may have been “disappeared,” held and interrogated in a secret and unconstitutional detention facility in the heart of America’s third-largest city.
The Guardian newspaper is alleging that Chicago police operated a secret holding facility for more than 10 years where 7,185 were held without trial or access to lawyers.
“That place was and is scary,” attorney David Gaeger said of Homan Square – the Chicago Police Department’s secret detention facility in an old warehouse. “It’s a scary place. There’s nothing about it that resembles a police station. It comes from a Bond movie or something.”
Gaeger isn’t alone in his description of Holman.
“The reality is, no one knows where that person is at Homan Square,” Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School professor. “They’re disappeared at that point.”
Disappeared is a term that refers to a tactic used by secret police under dictators such as Russia’s Joseph Stalin and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. A person who was “disappeared” was taken away by police or government thugs, never to be seen again.
Chicago Police were able to do an end-run around the courts and the Constitution by simply taking suspects they arrested to Homan Square, a police evidence warehouse, instead of booking them into jail, The Guardian is alleging. That violated the law, the Constitution and the police department’s own rules, the newspaper alleged.
“It’s hard to believe that 7,185 arrests is an accurate number of arrestees at Homan Square,” Futterman said. Documents released because of a Guardian lawsuit show that that many people were detained at Homan Square between August 2004 and June 2015. The facility has been compared to one of the black sites where the CIA allegedly holds suspected terrorists.
Attorneys allege they have no way to know if their clients are there or not.
“Try finding a phone number for Homan to see if anyone’s there,” Gaeger said. “You can’t, ever. If you’re laboring under the assumption that your client’s at Homan, there really isn’t much you can do as a lawyer. You’re shut out. It’s guarded like a military installation.”
Prisoners who are taken to Homan Square are not allowed to make phone calls. They are alone with the police and completely at the mercy of interrogators.
The police use a simple bureaucratic trick to hide people at Homan Square: They don’t book suspects.
Key Obama Aide Connected to Homan Square
Police greatly increased the use of Homan Square after Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff; took over as Chicago’s mayor, The Guardian reported. Reporters have not been able to determine how much Emanuel knew about the facility, although he has defended it.
According to the Guardian, 65 percent of the people taken to Homan Square were taken there after Emanuel was elected mayor. The newspaper also reported that 82.2 percent of the people detained there were African-American, even though only 33 percent of Chicago’s population is black.
“Operating a massive, red-brick warehouse between two of the most crime-filled areas in the city of Chicago, equipped with floodlights, cameras, razor-wire – this near-paramilitary wing of the government that we’ve created, I would say that people who live close to it know what purpose it serves the most,” Gaeger said.
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