You've likely heard of "black sites" operated by the CIA at which prisoners are interrogated off the grid and without due process. Well, an investigation released yesterday by the Guardian asserts that the Chicago Police Department has something similar—a former Sears warehouse on the west side of the city called Homan Square that police have used since the late '90s. The report by Spencer Ackerman alleges that suspects brought there enter the equivalent of a legal black hole: Their names don't show up in booking databases, making it all but impossible for families and attorneys to find them, and those interviewed describe beatings, shackling for prolonged periods, and the detention of people as young as 15. The Guardian today reports that two former top DOJ officials say the report's claims merit a preliminary inquiry; the newspaper describes that as "a first step toward a full civil rights investigation."
"This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years of violating a suspect or witness's rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement," Chicago civil rights attorney Flint Taylor tells the Guardian. The story cites the case of Brian Jacob Church, arrested during a protest of a NATO summit in 2012, who was detained, shackled, and questioned for nearly a full day before being released to a police station to be booked. "It's a domestic black site," Church says. "When you go in, no one knows what's happened to you." The department called the facility a "sensitive" location vital for undercover operations and insisted that it "abides by all laws, rules, and guidelines." Click for the full story, and an accompanying one describing the site itself in more detail. (Read more Chicago stories.)