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Illinois State Prison to House Guantanamo Bay Detainees

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By Kamika Dunlap on December 15, 2009 9:03 AM

The Thomson Correctional Center in rural Illinois will be the new home for a limited number of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.

Many of the Guantanamo Bay detainees will be transferred to the Illinois state prison in the sleepy town of Thomson near the Mississippi River.

The announcement by the White House comes after the administration has been tasked with plans to close the prison at Gitmo and identify a new site for those charged with acts of terrorism.

Administration officials as well as Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made the official announcement that the government has acquired the facility about 150 miles from Chicago, according to the Associated Press.

It is a risky move, that many including some Illinois lawmakers worry will make make Chicago a target for terrorists.

As previously discussed, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Chicago's northern suburbs is concerned about Guantanamo Bay detainees that would be housed at Thomson that will have to stand federal trials.

Kirk has requested that the administration look at potential threats to O'Hare International Airport and the Willis Tower.

So far, about 215 detainees remain at Guantanamo and of those 90 have been cleared for release.

According to the administration, the Illinois state prison would house federal inmates and no more than 100 detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Thomson Correctional Center was built by Illinois in 2001 as a state prison and sat empty for years. The facility not only has the potential to house maximum security inmates but to bring jobs to the economically depressed town of Thomson.

It emerged as the front-runner although several other potential sites were considered including including Marion, Ill., Hardin, Mont., and Florence, Colo.

Housing the Guantanamo Bay detainees at Thomson is expected to bring 3,000 well-paying jobs and bringing in $1 billion federal dollars to fund local facility operations, officials say. Currently, Illinois is struggling with an 11 percent unemployment rate.

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