The Obama administration is eyeing a practically vacant prison in western Illinois to house terrorism suspects transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, following its closure.
Top Democrats, including Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin, have announced their support for the plan, calling it an economic boon for the area, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Quinn called the prospect a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for Illinois during a fly-around tour on Sunday.
The prison under consideration, a maximum-security facility in rural Thomson, Ill., could house 1,600 prisoners.
Bureau of Prisons official will visit Thomson this week.
Prominent Illinois Republicans have voiced vehement opposition to the Thomson proposal. Rep. Don Manzullo, who represents the district that includes Thomson, expressed strong reservations, though he admitted the economic advantages of the plan.
“Our residents in Carroll County and throughout northwestern Illinois desperately need jobs, and if there’s a need for a new federal prison to house domestic federal prisoners the Thomson facility would be ideal,” Manzullo said. “But bringing the world’s most dangerous terrorists to northern Illinois would do more harm than good in the long run.”
Durbin, however, emphasized the plan’s safety, stressing that it wouldn’t endanger the town’s residents.
“There’s not been a single escape from a super-max prison in the history of the United States,” Durbin said.
Thomson is a remote, quiet town with 550 residents, and is known as the “melon capital of the world” due to its high-quality watermelon farms, according to its web site.