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Illinois Democrats welcome draft memo on local prison for Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) [official websites] said Friday that a leaked memo [text] signals that the US government intends to transfer Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center (TCC) [DOC backgrounder] in northwestern Illinois. The memo from the attorney general, leaked last week to conservative website Big Government [website], is dated December 10, 2009, and directs the secretary of defense to "relocate detainees currently held at the Guantanamo Detention Facility to the TCC as expeditiously as possible." A White House official said that no final decision has been made [AP report], but Quinn and Durbin said they were encouraged by the memo, nonetheless.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration is seeking Illinois congressional support [JURIST report] for a plan to purchase the TCC to house terrorism suspects currently being held at Guantanamo. Both Durbin and Quinn favor [JURIST report] moving Guantanamo detainees to the northwestern Illinois prison facility. It is estimated that the facility could bring 2,340-3,250 new jobs to the community and provide an estimated $790 million to $1.09 billion economic impact over four years. Not all local leaders support the possible transfer of accused terrorists to Illinois, however. In November, US Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) [official website] wrote a letter [text] to President Barack Obama, urging him not to transfer detainees to the TCC because of fears it would lead to terrorist activity in the Chicago area. Even if the prison is chosen as a domestic facility for Guantanamo transferees, in order to hold detainees in US, Congress would have to change a law specifically prohibiting detainee transfers into the US except for trials [JURIST report]. A Michigan state prison has also been suggested as a possible holding facility for ex-Guantanamo detainees, but local residents have protested the possible transfers [JURIST reports].

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