Ill. lawmakers debate detainee proposal

Nov. 15, 2009 at 4:54 PM

CHICAGO, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Illinois lawmakers are debating a proposal to convert a nearly empty state prison into a home for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, terror detainees, observers say.

The idea, first floated by the Obama administration Friday and revealed in Saturday newspaper reports, brought scorn from a Republican congressman seeking a U.S. Senate seat and praise from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday.

Reports have indicated that the state prison Thomson, Ill. -- a maximum-security prison roughly 150 miles west of Chicago -- could be could be turned into a super-maximum facility with a unit for some of the Guantanamo detainees.

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is seeking the Senate seat now held by Roland Burris, wrote in a letter to Obama, "If your administration brings al-Qaida terrorists to Illinois, our state and the Chicago metropolitan area will become ground zero for jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization."

But Durbin responded by citing statistics that 350 people convicted of terrorism are already locked up in federal prisons -- a total that includes 35 in Illinois.

"To those who say U.S. prisons cannot safely hold high-risk terror suspects, I say look at the facts," Durbin told the Tribune.

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