A covert police warehouse in Chicago known as Homan Square has detained more than 7,000 people, Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian reports, noting the number is much higher than previously believed.
Just 68 of those inmates had access to their lawyers, The Guardian reports, citing police records obtained as part of a lawsuit the paper filed against the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
“The reality is, no one knows where that person is at Homan Square,” Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who studies policing, told The Guardian.
“They’re disappeared at that point.”
The Guardian first reported on Homan Square in February, revealing that the Chicago Police Department was holding US citizens for days on end there. Over the summer, The Guardian was able to confirm that at least 3,500 Americans had been detained at the facility.
That number appears to be much higher now, according to new data disclosed to The Guardian through its lawsuit. Nearly 6,000 of those held were black, according to records cited by The Guardian. Of the more than 7,000 people detained, 5,386 were eventually charged with drug possession as opposed to more violent crimes.
Despite the fact that the people detained are relatively low-level offenders, The Guardian’s initial article quoted local lawyers who compared Homan Square to the CIA’s so-called black sites offshore used to interrogate suspected terrorists.
“There are usually questions about whether these arrests are justifiable or constitutional,” Anthony Hill, a criminal defence attorney, told Business Insider in February. “Suspected criminals are just picked up and thrown into the back of unmarked cars by police officers wielding assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests. Describing the process as highly militarised would be fair.”
“It’s a black hole,” Hill added.
Hill said that when arrests were questionable, the police would often take suspects to Homan Square instead of to a police station to avoid having a record of an arrest ever being made.
Still, despite some local lawyers’ specific concerns about Homan Square, other local lawyers are reluctant to compare it to a “black site,” The Chicago Tribune reported in February. Those lawyers don’t deny that people at Homan Square have limited access to lawyers, but they say those problems are widespread.
Richard Dvorak, a veteran criminal defence attorney, told the Tribune he wasn’t aware of any problem unique to Homan Square.
“Everything that was described [in the Guardian story] was something that happens every day,” he told the Tribune. “I think it’s pretty systemic throughout CPD.”
Many of the arrests have happened while Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been in office, and he has unequivocally denied any wrongdoing at the Homan facility.
“We follow all the rules … Everything’s done by the books,” Emanuel told “Chicago Tonight” about the report earlier this year.
We reached out to the Chicago Police Department for comment on the latest Guardian article, and we will update this post with any comment we receive.
Additional reporting by Natasha Bertrand.
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