Last February, an investigation revealed that Chicago had a detention facility that lawyers claimed was “the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site”; those in the Homan Square site experienced a number of abuses, including being held without access to an attorney and suffering beatings by police. In a followup to its February investigation, the Guardian has released more information on the scandal. Some of the key findings from the new report:
- Between September 2004 and June 2015, around 3,540 people were eventually charged, mostly with forms of drug possession – primarily heroin, as well as marijuana and cocaine – but also for minor infractions such as traffic violations, public urination and driving without a seatbelt.
- More than 82% of the Homan Square arrests thus far disclosed – or 2,974 arrests – are of black people, while 8.5% are of white people. Chicago, according to the 2010 US census, is 33% black and 45% white.
- Over two-thirds of the arrests at Homan Square thus far revealed – at least 2,522 – occurred under the tenure of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former top aide to Barack Obama who has said of Homan Square that the police working under him “follow all the rules”.
These abuses occurred in a deep blue city in one of the bluest states in the country. That shouldn’t surprise us. Blue modelers, of course, have seemingly endless faith in the power of big government to do well by the people it governs, especially the most vulnerable. Their rhetoric turns on the claim that blue policies alone can help the poor, and they brand those who disagree as racists who hate the poor. And when it turns out that no one was guarding the guardsmen, and that institutions have abused the power they’ve been given, blue modelers are surprised and disappointed, but somehow still earnestly convinced that the solution is…yet more big blue government.
Chicago, with its metastasizing pension crisis, its poorly functioning school system, and, as we now know, this detention site abuse, is one giant, city-sized argument to the contrary. Long hailed as the “city that works” in contrast to obviously failing places like Detroit and New Orleans, Chicago, too, is coming under pressure as the accumulating failures of an obsolescent social model reduce its economic viability and degrade its institutions. Handing over more power to blue institutions isn’t the way to help the poor; often, it is precisely that concentrated power that is turned against the most vulnerable.