Monday, November 30, 2009
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Lawmaker pushes to fast-track hearings on 'Illinois Gitmo' plan

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[November 30, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- A state legislator wants to fast-track hearings on the possible sale of a northwestern Illinois prison to the U.S. government so federal authorities could eventually use the complex to house Guantanamo Bay detainees.

HardwareState Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, who co-chairs a panel that reviews state facility closings before any sale, said he'll act "with all deliberate speed" and try to launch hearings on the Thomson Correctional Center by the end of December.

"The area's desperate for jobs, and this would appear to be a responsible way to boost the local economy," said the Evanston Democrat, echoing other proponents of the sale, including Gov. Quinn.

The Quinn administration Wednesday filed its recommendation for closing the prison -- opening the way for the legislative hearings.

President Obama wants to close the military-run detention center in Cuba, and Thomson is just one location being considered as the White House looks for places to move detainees.

Thomson has 1,600 cells, but budget problems have kept it from ever being fully used. It now houses only about 200 minimum-security inmates.

Critics have questioned upbeat assessments about the economic impact of turning the prison over to federal authorities. Some Republicans also have expressed fears that moving terrorism suspects to Thomson would put Illinoisans at risk.

Schoenberg says he sees no such danger.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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