Monday, August 18, 2008

City Defends "Secret Jail" Built for DNC

The makeshift holding center, dubbed "Gitmo on the Platte" by activists, is located on city-owned property near Steele Street and 38th Avenue. Newly-installed security cameras guard the exterior, chain-link fences and barbed wire form cells inside.

"We feel the city should be ashamed of this secret prison they've set up," said Re-create '68 organizer Glenn Spagnuolo.

Spagnuolo and other activists gathered outside the formerly-secret facility on Friday to protest the city's plan to use it as a processing center for all those arrested outside the DNC.

"The public was never going to view this place, it was just found out," Spagnuolo said. "They got caught with this place. They told our lawyers in negotiations that this place didn't even exist."

"This was never a secret site," said Undersheriff Bill Lovingier, the city's director of corrections.

Lovingier said the city had long planned to build a new holding facility for the DNC, which triples the processing speed of the city jail. Lovingier said the Steele Street warehouse will be able to process 60 arrestees an hour.

"This center is designed as an arrest processing site," Lovinger said. "There will be no housing or long-term detentions."

Activists said that claim was doubtful.

"What's going to happen here is police are going to detain people for an inordinate amount of time," said Unconventional Denver organizer Ben Yager. "They're going to use this as an excuse to keep people out of the courts and off of the streets."

Protest groups questioned whether the makeshift facility would be suitable for inhabitation after years as a storage facility.

Lovinger said air-conditioning has been installed and the Denver Fire Department has certified it meets fire codes.

"We've provided for restroom facilities, water, medical assistance," Lovingier said. "We tried to mirror in this facility what we do every day in our city jail."

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