Chicago's Guantanimo

Chicago police's use of a warehouse at Honan Square to detain suspects for secret interrogations just gets worse and worse.

Police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people at an off-the-books interrogation warehouse in Chicago, nearly twice as many detentions as previously disclosed, the Guardian can now reveal....

According to an analysis of data disclosed to the Guardian in late September, police allowed lawyers access to Homan Square for only 0.94% of the 7,185 arrests logged over nearly 11 years. That percentage aligns with Chicago police’s broader practice of providing minimal access to attorneys during the crucial early interrogation stage, when an arrestee’s constitutional rights against self-incrimination are most vulnerable.

But Homan Square is unlike Chicago police precinct houses, according to lawyers who described a “find-your-client game” and experts who reviewed data from the latest tranche of arrestee records obtained by the Guardian.

“Not much shakes me in this business – baby murder, sex assault, I’ve done it all,” said David Gaeger, an attorney whose client was taken to Homan Square in 2011 after being arrested for marijuana. “That place was and is scary. It’s a scary place. There’s nothing about it that resembles a police station. It comes from a Bond movie or something.”

For whatever reason, the story does not seem to be able to generate much national heat, as partially evidenced by the fact that it takes a UK newspapers to show any initiative on the story.  The Right fetishizes law enforcement,  the Left refuses to take on a powerful public union, and the city is run by a mayor with powerful connections to both the President and Hillary Clinton, so essentially no one is interested.

By the way, most of these folks are being held for hours or days due to drug possession arrests (5386 of the 7000+), yet another indicator of why the war on drugs has become so stupid and counter-productive.


  1. Matthew Slyfield:

    "it takes a UK newspapers to show any initiative on the story."

    This in my opinion is the most interesting part of the story. The only way this story could be more embarrassing to the US main stream media is if this story was coming from Al Jazeera America.

  2. stan:

    Interesting story. Your 2 summary paragraphs are rather foolish, but expected. The notion that because Democrats engage in wholesale violations of rights we should be in favor of legalizing drug pushers is illogical.

  3. CB CB:

    Of the 5,386 people cited in your commentary who were detained on drug possession charges-- I would bet at least +60% of those folks were arrested for pot possession or for selling it.

    The war on drugs is more aptly a war on marijuana since the vast majority of drug "crimes" involve possession of pot while a much smaller percentage of arrests happen for possession of other drugs.

    Agree the war on drugs has failed. Many people who find that war effective are those who earn paychecks enforcing the "war" on drugs-- so their views are biased to say the least. Others who can interpret data and who read history understand prohibition does not work.

  4. CB CB:

    Violation of US citizen rights is not a two-party issue. The illogical stance is to spend vital resources on marijuana prohibition. Cities / states could save a fortune if they decriminalized pot and focused efforts on addiction treatment, not addict incarceration.

    BTW: What do you call alcohol "pushers"? Answer: Bartenders or store clerks. That's because it's decriminalized.

  5. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Of the 5,386 people cited in your commentary who were detained on drug
    possession charges-- I would bet at least +60% of those folks were
    arrested for pot possession or for selling it."

    Nope. From the Guardian Article:

    Drug possession charges were eventually levied in 5,386 of the disclosed
    Homan Square arrests, or 74.9%; heroin accounted for 35.4% of those,
    with marijuana next at 22.3%.

  6. SamWah:

    The Grauniad is not where I go to for info or journalism, I'm amazed that such a leftie source is so against this.

  7. SamWah:

    Second the motion!

  8. Daniel Nylen:

    Only with the totalitarian left, like Stalin, like Hitler, like other leftist, are there such wholesale disregard of a citizen's rights. Whether Swatting, political indictments, or downright internal gulags, the left operates the same once it has total power. All voters, citizens or not, should remember that.

  9. CB CB:

    Thanks Matthew. I have web blocking software at work so I couldn't link to the Guardian piece. The 74.9% figure is astonishing.

  10. Matthew Slyfield:

    The 74.9% is the total drug arrests as a percentage of the 7000 taken to Holman Square.

    Of the drug busts, a little more than a third were for heroin and a little less than a quarter were for marijuana.

  11. sch:

    This didn't sound 'new' and a search popped up a Guardian article very similar to this one 6-8 months ago. Presumably the present article is an expansion with a bit more detail as well as a bump up of the original article published in February '15.

  12. J_W_W:

    My goodness!! It sounds like Chicago should really get to work electing Democrats to fix these blatant Civli Rights violations.

  13. irandom419:

    Last Republican mayor of Chicago was in the 1920's, look at what a liberal paradise has become.

  14. jdgalt:

    Overcriminalization and police misbehavior are major issues for some lefties as well as libertarians (though you have to watch out for the ones who pretend that only blacks suffer from these problems, or that every "victim" whose case was posted on Twitter is really a victim and didn't ask for what he got).

    I hope that by accepting (some of) these allies, we can steer these policy discussions where they need to go.

    [Nit: misspelled Guantánamo]

  15. fotini901:

    Decriminalized AND far more harmful and addictive.

  16. Gil G:

    The traditional view is that the war on drugs is a preferred by Rightists.

  17. jdgalt:

    Before Goldwater, that was true. Now it's part of nanny-statism, which the left owns.

  18. NL7:

    I wouldn't say it's particularly progressive. It's dominated by one party but that party has factions. Rahm is considered to be from the more moderate faction, which is why the progressives and teachers unions hate him. They went on a lengthy strike because he wanted to shut down redundant schools. If anything, Rahm being more moderate might factor into the police being so aggressively authoritarian.

    It's common in one-party democracies that the party develops factions. Japan had a faction system within the ruling LDP for decades after WWII. And many cities ruled by one party develop faction systems. San Francisco has a dynamic somewhat like Chicago, where mayors are often from a "moderate progressive" wing and they are opposed by more radical progressives.

    NYC is actually somewhat more competitive in the sense that since 1977 it has elected non-Democrats as many times as Democrats. Yet NYC still has had a lot of problems with police violence and abuses, ranging from Amadou Diallo to Abner Louima to stop & frisk.

  19. Paul Moroni:

    The Guardian story doesn't mention anything particularly heinous going on at Homan Square. The story uses some hyperbole such as "off the books interrogation warehouse" where people are "dissappeared". But where are the specific allegations of misconduct. 22 people claim they were kept there hours to days, out of 7,000+?
    This strikes me as a nonstory. I am not trolling and I am not attempting to be a progressive or conservative police state sympathizer. If you are against police arresting people generally, and for drug offenses specifically, I can see how this story would outrage you. But nothing in it stands out.
    Are there allegations of torture or beatings?
    False arrests?
    People being kept there beyond the legal time limit, 24 hours or whatever it is?
    Constitutional rights violated?
    If any of that were the case, People would be coming out of the woodwork and Lawyers would be all over this.

  20. Paul Moroni:

    Not sure the significance or implication of pointing out percentage of arrests where drug charges were eventually levied, at least not without knowing more about the cases.
    People are not randomly searched in their homes or cars.
    Very likely many of these people were committing other crimes, and we're subsequently found to be in possession of drugs. Drug charges are easy to stick, and since they've already got you on those, prosecutors may not feel the need to press charges for the other alleged crimes, where trials can get expensive and conviction is less certain.

  21. Matthew Slyfield:

    "People are not randomly searched in their homes or cars."

    An assumption without any evidence to support it.

    "Very likely many of these people were committing other crimes, and we're subsequently found to be in possession of drugs."

    Another assumption based on zero evidence.

    "where trials can get expensive and conviction is less certain."

    What trials? 85% or more of all prosecutions end in plea bargains before a jury is selected.

  22. jdgalt:

    They are and they are. This story is only new to UK readers, or those who were asleep.

  23. jdgalt:

    No leftist should be called liberal or progressive. Those are the adjectives of liberty and progress, and they're dead set against both.

  24. jdgalt:

    It makes a lot more sense when you study what happened when alcohol was banned. (Among other things this will teach you which harms are caused by the drug and which by the law.) Both you MADD people and the die-hard drug warriors still need to learn that lesson.

  25. Paul Moroni:

    I do presume that constitutional protections apply in Chicago, such as those protecting against unlawful searches. There is no claim in the Guardian story to the contrary. Can someone provide evidence the Guardian story does not?
    Perhaps. Perhaps the Guardian believes these violations to be so widespread, so well known to the vast majority of its readership, and so thoroughly covered by other media outlets that they did not need to rehash them. If so, someone please enlighten me.
    If not, then what instigates the interactions with police that ultimately lead to an arrest and drug charges being handed down?
    That 85% of prosecutions end in plea bargains is precisely what I am speaking to. For better or for worse, prosecutors would rather have a defendant plea than go to trial. So if a person is pulled over for speeding, gets into a fight, or commits a robbery, or whatever, and also has drugs on them, prosecutors will press drug charges because the case is more serious than the violation which led to the interaction (as in speeding), or is much easier to prosecute than the crime which may have initially led to the arrest ( such as robbery).
    So again, you may be opposed to the drug war generally, but what is the relevance to Homan Square of the share of arrests where drug charges were eventually levied?

  26. jdgalt:

    You seem out of touch with reality. Start reading .

  27. Paul Moroni:

    You're right. I was able to find about a half dozen people that have filed suit subsequent to the Guardian first breaking the story. I guess we will have to wait and see though. A handful of people alleging they were held for a few hours and no charges were ever filed does not sound out of the ordinary for the police. Not to defend or condemn police practices in the the country broadly, I have yet to find any evidence of broad policies or practices at Homan Square that are far out of the norm. I have no doubt there are egregious violations of people's rights from time to time by Chicago PD, as there probably are with every major PD in the country. There is a story about an arrestee being anally penetrated. Anomalous acts of violence and criminality by the police, as heinous as they may be, are not in and of themselves evidence of anything broader. My gut is that with all the media coverage of police practices over the past two years, if there were systemic problems at Homan Square, more news outlets would be covering the story and the public would be more outraged. Even the Guardian's coverage of the promotion of Nicholas Roti in the spring was spun by the paper to make it appear to be in shame that he resigned. When he was in effect promoted to chief of staff for the Illinois State Police.

  28. Matthew Slyfield:

    "I do presume that constitutional protections apply in Chicago, such as
    those protecting against unlawful searches. There is no claim in the
    Guardian story to the contrary."


    One of those constitutional protections is the right to a lawyer, the right to not be questioned without a lawyer present.

    From the Guardian article: "According to an analysis of data disclosed to the Guardian in late
    September, police allowed lawyers access to Homan Square for only 0.94%
    of the 7,185 arrests logged over nearly 11 years."

    In what universe is that not a claim to the contrary?

    If one constitutional protection is being systematically violated, why would you assume others aren't?

  29. jdgalt:

    I'm assuming that Mr. Moroni is overseas, and maybe unaware of Gideon v. Wainwright. The Constitution is much more vague about the right to an attorney than that 1950s era decision.

  30. Paul Moroni:

    Homan Square doesn't sound like a very nice place. But there is not a precinct in the country where you see an attorney right away. Not one. I don't know of anything in the Constitution that entitles attorneys to go to Homan Square. Police can normally wait up to several hours or even until the next day to book you, at which point you would normally be able to make a phone call or get a lawyer, etc. If Homan Square is used to hold arrestees before being moved somewhere else for booking, it may not be standard practice to have lawyers go there. If you are opposed to the police in general, or believe that bookings should take place within minutes of an arrest, or find standard police practices nationwide - including Chicago - to be in violation of the Constitution and anathema to freedom, then there may be merit to criticisms of Homan Square. Perhaps Homan Square should be closed down. Perhaps the police who work out of there do systematically violate the Constitutional rights of arrestees. Perhaps not, and it still ought to be closed or its practices changed. But the charge that something extraordinary is going on at Homan Square does not match up with the evidence presented so far by the Guardian or any other source I've seen.

  31. Paul Moroni:

    I'm no Constitutional scholar, but as I understand Gideon v. Wainwright, all it did was say you had to have a lawyer at trial. If you show up at a precinct with no lawyer, you're not going to magically be given one on the spot. Even if you have a lawyer, you'd have to be paying him quite a bit to convince him to get out of bed and drive down there on a Saturday night for no particular reason.

  32. jdgalt:

    It also said they're supposed to immediately stop questioning you until you've had a chance to talk to your lawyer.

    Of course they've been steadily eroding that protection ever since it came into being.

  33. Paul Moroni:

    Not sure where in the Guardian story it is said that people taken to Homan Square were forced to incriminate themselves despite not having a lawyer present and despite having invoked their right to remain silent. Also, not sure it is true that police are "supposed to immediatley stop questioning you until you've had a chance to talk to a lawyer." Police can talk to you all they please, and act on any information they get from you. What they cant do is use a confession given under duress to help convict that person, nor can they fail to inform you of your miranda rights, then proceed to question you, then use as evidence against you anything you told them during questioning.