In a shocking report the Guardian newspaper of London has revealed that Chicago police have detained thousands of Black Americans at what amounts to an off-the-books interrogation facility. The Homan Square facility is “where detainees are still held for minor crimes with little access to the outside world, despite police denials that site is an anomaly. The Chicago Police “warehouse” has held some 3,500 persons, most of them Black and poor according to a review of recently released documents that were pried out of police hands only after a lawsuit filed by the Guardian. And the numbers reflect only the past ten years for the facility that has been used for a much longer time.
Of the thousands held in the facility known as Homan Square over a decade, 82% were black. Only three received documented visits from an attorney, according to a cache of documents obtained when the Guardian sued the police. Despite repeated denials from the Chicago police department that the warehouse is a secretive, off-the-books anomaly, the Homan Square files begin to show how the city’s most vulnerable people get lost in its criminal justice system. People held at Homan Square have been subsequently charged with everything from “drinking alcohol on the public way” to murder. But the scale of the detentions – and the racial disparity therein – raises the prospect of major civil-rights violations.
Civil rights attorneys and legal scholars are among those expressing shock at the new Guardian report.