69 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 505 (1993-1994)
Clean Sweep or Witch Hunt: Constitutional Issues in Chicago's Public Housing Sweeps

handle is hein.journals/chknt69 and id is 523 raw text is: CLEAN SWEEP OR WITCH HUNT?: CONSTITUTIONAL
ISSUES IN CHICAGO'S PUBLIC HOUSING SWEEPS
DAVID E.B. SMITH*
INTRODUCTION
Describing life in America's public housing projects as hell' or
Beirut U.S.A.'2 trivializes a desperately tragic situation.3 Random
gunfire and violent death are part of each child's education. Mothers
struggle to feed their children on the meager proceeds from welfare
checks or low-paying jobs. Alcohol and drug use and the associated
crime flourish. The buildings themselves crumble and decay from
years of neglect and bureaucratic ineptitude. Those who can escape
do, leaving behind in their wake an increasingly disadvantaged and
deprived underclass.4 The projects are increasingly seen as some
other America, isolated from and feared by the rest of the nation.
In 1988 the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA or Authority)
instituted a new program5 intended to regain control of Chicago's
* I am grateful to Professor David Thomas for his encouragement and patience during the
development of this Note. The editorial contributions of J. Russell McFarlane and Kathleen J.
Getty were invaluable: thanks to Rusty for disbelieving all my arguments and encouraging me
to convince you, and thanks to Kathy for having the patience and initiative that I lacked. The
1992-93 staff and editors of the Chicago-Kent Law Review will never adequately receive the
honor they deserve for their perseverance in the face of an overwhelming task. I will always be
inspired by their dedication and grateful for their accomplishments in turning adversity into
success. For their leadership and for the camaraderie we shared, I extend special praise to my
fellow board members: Steve, Lesa, Ana, Shawn, Mary, and Mark. But most of all, thanks to
Sally for her immeasurable tolerance, infinite patience, and unwavering support over the past
four years.
1. Camilo C. Vergara, Hell in a Very Tall Place; Conditions in New York City Public Hous-
ing Projects, THE ATLANTIC, Sept. 1989, at 72. But see Zay N. Smith, In a World of Death, Kids
Sing About 'Living in Hell', CHI. SUN-TIMES, Oct. 18, 1992, at 29 (describing Cabrini-Green
children's song Living Here Is Like Living In Hell).
2. Thomas Moore et al., Dead Zones, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REP., Apr. 10, 1989, at 20.
3. For a moving account of two boys struggling to grow up in Chicago's Henry Homer
Homes, see ALEX KoTLowrrz, THERE ARE No CHILDREN HERE (1991). For a historical and
sociological account of movement from Mississippi sharecropping farms to Chicago ghettos, in-
cluding the Robert Taylor Homes, see NICHOLAS LEMANN, THE PROMISED LAND (1991).
4. See WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON, THE TRULY DISADVANTAGED (1987), for a candid and
nondogmatic exploration of the social trauma of the inner city.
5. The idea, however, is not so new. In the 1960s, welfare officials conducted mass night-
time or early morning raids on the homes of welfare recipients in hopes of discovering an unau-
thorized man in the house. See Charles A. Reich, Midnight Welfare Searches and the Social
Security Act, 72 YALE L.J. 1347 (1963); see also Parrish v. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 425 P.2d 223 (Cal.
1967) (social worker seeking reinstatement after being discharged for refusing to participate in
Operation Bedcheck raids).

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