Guantanamo Detainees May Head to Illinois

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The White House plans to announce today that the government will acquire an underutilized state prison in rural Illinois as the new home for those held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for suspected links to terrorism.

The Associated Press reports administration officials as well as Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will make the announcement today.

President Barack Obama reportedly has already directed the government to acquire Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, a small town near the Mississippi River about 150 miles from Chicago. An aide to Senator Durbin said the facility would house federal inmates and no more than 100 detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) said he had "full confidence that the facility will hold these terrorism suspects safely and securely." Burris said in a statement that the transfer would be "a great economic benefit to the state by creating over 3,000 well-paying jobs and bringing in valuable federal dollars to fund local facility operations." Illinois has an 11 percent unemployment rate.

Thomson Village President Jerry Hebeler was asleep when the word came that Thomson Correctional Center had been chosen.

"It's news to me, but then I'm always the last to know anything," Hebeler said Monday night of the news affecting his town of 600 residents. "It'll be good for the village and the surrounding area, especially with all the jobs that have been lost here."

Hebeler said he wouldn't rejoice until "the ink is on the paper" because previous plans for increased use of the nearly empty prison had fallen through.

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