Despite the fact that many prisons in the US are overcrowded, a prison in Thomson, Illinois is almost empty. This is because although millions were spent to build the prison, the state claims it lacks the funds to run it. Of course, there are some rather famous prisoners, those at Gitmo, who are in need of new housing. This would seem to provide an ideal match: some of the prisoners can be sent to the prison in Thomson and federal dollars can be spent to run the prison.
While people generally take a “not in my back yard” approach to things like alleged terrorists, the folks in Thomson seem to be eager to get these folks. The main reason is, of course, money. As noted above, the state alleges that it cannot even run the prison. Also, the local economy (like most local economies) is doing poorly. Having the federal government dump vast sums of money into the prison would create new jobs and provide an influx of cash into the region (naturally, Thomson’s gain would be at the expense of other people-those who pay the taxes and those who do not get that federal gravy).
Of course, certain Republicans have been critical of the plan, citing issues of national security. Of course, it is interesting to speculate about their actual motivations in this matter. In any case, the security concerns are easy enough to counter.
First, as the locals have pointed out, the prison is a maximum security prison. It is designed to handle the most dangerous sort of people and since these Gitmo folks are not super villains, it should handle them quite nicely.
Second, while there are some concerns that terrorists would attack the prison, no such attempts have been made at Gitmo. Gitmo is, obviously enough, located right next to Cuba-one of America‘s enemies. If the terrorists cannot launch an attack on Gitmo, it seems unlikely that they will be able to get to Illinois and launch an attack on a prison there. That would be a rather significant undertaking, to say the least.
Third, while it has been claimed that housing prisoners at Thomson would make Illinois the top target for terrorists, the fact is that the prison in Marion, Illinois already holds thirty five convicted terrorists as well as members of Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. This has not seemed to have led to Illinois being the top target for terrorists and hence there seems little reason to think that adding a few former Gitmo inmates would change things.
In light of the facts, it seems reasonable to use the prison in Thomson. After all, it would help the local economy and put that multi-million dollar prison into operation. Also, if we are going to close Gitmo, we need to put the prisoners somewhere and we cannot expect other countries to take care of that for us.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Illinois: The new Cuba? Vacant prison may house Guantanamo inmates (nationalpost.com)
- Gitmo, Illinois? (chicagoist.com)
- U.S. Studies Illinois Prison for Terror Suspects (nytimes.com)