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Obama administration favors Illinois prison for Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] The Obama administration is seeking Illinois congressional support [Washington Post report] for a plan to purchase a prison facility in northwestern Illinois to house terrorism suspects currently being held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], the Washington Post reported Sunday. Last week officials from the White House, the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website], and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) [official website] met [press release, video] with members of the Illinois congressional caucus in the office of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) [official website] to raise support for the use of the Thomson Correctional Facility [IDOC backgrounder] as a location for housing detainees. Officials did not entirely rule out choosing another site, but if the Thomson site is chosen it would require funding to bring it up to the appropriate security level and would not be open for several months. Officials also said that they are considering the addition of a courtroom at the site in order to hold military commission [JURIST news archive] hearings.

Both Durbin and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) 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 Thomson Facility 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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