At least 3,500 people have been detained in a Chicago police warehouse described by some of its arrestees as a secretive interrogation facility, say newly uncovered records obtained by the Guardian. Of the thousands held in the facility known as Homan Square over a decade, 82 percent were black. (The city’s population is 33 percent black.) Only three received documented visits from an attorney. 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. The scale of the detentions and their racial disparity raises the prospect of major civil-rights violations. Documents indicate the detainees are a group of disproportionately minority citizens, many accused of low-level drug crimes, faced with incriminating themselves before their arrests appeared in a booking system by which their families and attorneys might find them. The Chicago police department has maintained that the warehouse is not a secret facility so much as an undercover police base operating in plain sight. “There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is no different at Homan Square,” the police asserted in March.