Chicago, IL- A warehouse on Chicago’s west side, known as Homan Square, is allegedly being used as an interrogation facility similar to a CIA “black site” according to an extensive report by The Guardian.
The Guardian reports that Homan Square operates in secret and regularly denies its detainees their Constitutional rights by using the following practices:
- Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases
- Beating by police, resulting in head wounds
- Shackling for prolonged periods
- Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility
- Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15
The Guardian interviewed various attorneys, former law enforcement agents and a man named Brian Church, a protester who said he spent 17 hours at Homan Square handcuffed to a bench. Church was the only detainee willing to speak out to the Guardian. Attorneys for other detainees have stated that their clients fear retaliation from police.
Church was a protester who became known as one of the “Nato 3” accused of terrorism in 2012. Church was not convicted of terrorism but served time for misdemeanor “mob action” and possession of an incendiary device. He is now on parole. “What sticks out the most in my mind is the amount of armored vehicles they had in their garage just sitting there,” Church told the Guardian about what he noticed at Homan Square. “Big vehicles, like the very large MRAPs that they use in the Middle East.”
Sarah Gelsomino, Church’s lawyer, recounted that she and other attorneys spent 12 hours searching for him and could not find any booking record. An attorney was later allowed entry into Honan Square before police transferred Church to a police station.
Attorneys said that it’s a rarity to be allowed inside the building to see a client. “It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place [Homan Square]– if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes. The Guardian was denied access to the interior of the building and a man at the facility only said that “This is a secure facility. You’re not even supposed to be standing here,” and refused to answer any questions.
Former Chicago police superintendent Richard Brzeczek said the facility is “not really a secret location, but it’s kind of a cloistered location.” Brzeczek acknowledged the presence of floor-to-ceiling chain-link metal cages inside the building, “much like going into, say, a factory where there are certain areas that are secure.”
Bartmes recalled a phone call from a mother who said she was worried her 15-year-old son had been detained by police. It was later found the boy was being questioned at Homan Square, and Bartmes said that she was refused access. Bartmes said she was told “you can’t just stand here taking notes, this is a secure facility, there are undercover officers, and you’re making people very nervous.” Bartmes said the boy was released after 12 or 13 hours, facing no charges.
One death has been reported at Homan Square. In February 2013, John Hubbard was found unresponsive inside one of Homan Square’s “interview rooms” and later pronounced dead. The Cook County medical examiner’s office was unable to find a record for the Guardian ruling a cause of death for Hubbard, and the Guardian was unable to find why Hubbard was detained by police in the first place.
Tracy Siska, a civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project and criminologist, said that facilities like Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cause interrogative practices to “creep into other aspects.”
“They creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago,” she said.