Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=147483
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 3:50:25 AM CST
Transferring Guantanamo detainees to Thomson correctional facility could provide 2,000 jobs and up to $1 billion in federal money for the area, according to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
“The fact that a facility would be converted to a maximum security federal prison, it would lead to construction jobs, security jobs,” terror expert Charles Tucker said. “Economically, I think it is a good deal for the state.”
However, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Northbrook) said the economic benefits of the plan are limited.
According to Kirk, 75% of the jobs will go to the U.S. military. Of the remaining jobs, there will be no local hiring preference, and no one over the age of 37 is eligible.
Despite this claim, the majority of Thomson residents are in support of the proposal, according to Thomson Chamber of Commerce President Julie Hansen.
“In this community, the real estate market is dead,” Hansen said. “The unemployment in this county [Carroll] is very, very high and jobs are in dire need.”
Hansen said the community is frustrated that the state-of-the-art facility has remained largely vacant since opening nearly a decade ago.
“We have sat for ten years now and watched while this prison was built and got excited because we thought it would improve our economy and bring in new people and more jobs and it hasn’t come to pass.”
U.S. Rep Don Manzullo (R-Rockford), who represents Thomson, said his first priority is the safety of the area.
“The people in Thomson, Illinois are in desperate need for jobs,” Manzullo said in a press conference Monday. “But why saddle them with the responsibility of having to live in an area that could easily be where terrorists strike.”
Manzullo recommends converting the state prison into a maximum security federal prison, but without transferring Guantanamo detainees there.
“Separate the two” Manzullo said. “This is not a package deal. I see no reason why Gitmo cannot remain open until such time as the fate of these remaining 215 are taken care of.”