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Plans to House Detainees in Illinois State Prison Delayed

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By Kamika Dunlap on December 24, 2009 8:58 AM

The Obama administration's plans to house Guantanamo Bay detainees in an Illinois state prison have been delayed.

The timeline for the transfer may take longer than expected.

President Barack Obama originally said Guantanamo would close next Jan. 22, but that timeline has been extended.

According to the Associated Press, it will take months for the federal government to buy an Illinois state prison and upgrade it to hold suspected terrorists. In addition, Congress also needs to change a law prohibiting detention in the U.S. of detainees who are not awaiting trial.

The change would have to specify that detainees could be kept on U.S. soil for purposes other than trying them by civilian court or military tribunal.

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

In order to transfer the Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Illinois state prison, Congress must first appropriate money for the takeover of the facility.

But lawmakers could balk at approving the funds and delay tactics could hold up the money for months.

Also lawmakers in both parties have been wary of bringing detainees to the United States.

According to the Justice Department, more than 560 Guantanamo Bay detainees have departed the military prison in Cuba since 2002 and 198 remain.

As previously discussed, the move to bring Guantanamo detainees to Thomson Correctional Facility has polarized many local residents and state officials.

On one side, 450 residents of the small town of Thomson are mostly welcoming and say it would bring back jobs to the area.

On the other side, several Illinois lawmakers say placing detainees there would be too risky and make Chicago a target for terrorists.

The prison in rural western Illinois may not be purchased from the state until March and will need up to 10 months of construction, officials said.

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