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Illinois prison could house Gitmo detainees
President Obama has expressed his desire to relocate Guantanamo Bay detainees to a prison on American soil. Thomson Correctional Center, about 150 miles from Chicago, is the leading choice of the Obama administration to house the detainees. The move would fulfill President Obama’s campaign promise of closing Guantanamo Bay.
Built in 2001 as a maximum-security prison, Thomson Correctional Center is largely vacant, housing about 150 prisoners in the minimum-security unit (according to the Illinois Department of Corrections). The maximum-security cell houses have been vacant since the prison opened.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons would increase the security of the prison if they decide to occupy it. The Bureau would also ensure that the fewer than 100 Guantanamo Bay detainees kept in the maximum-security unit would be separate from the minimum-security unit.
The move would economically benefit Thomson, Illinois, where people have been badly hit by the recession. The federal prison would create over 3,000 jobs for the town, as well as lower the 10.9% unemployment rate two to four points in the surrounding county (Carroll County) according to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said, “There are too many people out of work, there are businesses closing down because people are out of work. They need paychecks.”
Despite the economic benefits, the proposal is facing fierce opposition from politicians that are positioning themselves for the upcoming state primary elections in January. Mark Kirk, Republican Congressman of Illinois and a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, said that the move is an unnecessary risk. He said that the Chicago area could become “ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization.” He claims that the terrorist suspects housed in a super-max prison 150 miles away from Chicago would jeopardize Chicago’s security.
What was not mentioned by Kirk was that Chicago already temporarily houses suspected terrorists at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, which is within walking distance of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.
Additionally, federal facilities on American soil house 216 international terrorists and 139 domestic terrorists (according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons). In a supermax facility in Florence, Colorado, Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the September 11th plotters stays, as well as Theodore Kacynski, the “Unabomber.” Roughly 330 miles away from Chicago, in southwestern Illinois, the United States Penitentiary at Marion also houses international terrorists. These supermax prisons often confine their dangerous prisoners to solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. The Thomson prison will be run the same way. Terrorists imprisoned in nearby prisons are nothing new, despite current outrage over the move of the detainees.
Kirk, apparently ignorant of the dangerous prisoners already in our prisons, circulated a letter to Illinois’s congressional delegation and state officials that said, “As elected officials in the state of Illinois, we urge you to put the safety and security of Illinois families first and stop any plan to transfer al-Qaeda terrorists to our state.”
Republican Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois said, “The Obama administration’s utter inability to create jobs here does not somehow make sending some of the world’s worst terrorists to our backyard a good idea.” In response to the strong opposition to relocating the terrorists, Iowa Representative Bruce Braley said, “The time for fear-mongering is over.”
Closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp would end what President Obama described as “a sad chapter in American history.” The Illinois politicians that argue fervently against Illinois housing terrorists were described by Durbin as “crossing the line.” Quinn described the relocation of the Guantanamo detainees as being a “great, great opportunity for our state.”