The Obama administration is expected to announce today that a state prison in rural Illinois, just across the border from Iowa, will become the new home for some terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Thomson Correctional Center is about 12 miles from Clinton, Iowa. Clinton Mayor Rodger Holm says residents of the area have mixed feelings about the matter, but the economic impact could be huge.
“There’s 2,000 to 3,000 jobs I believe predicted and that’s going to mean the need for a large labor shed,” Holm told Radio Iowa. “So, it won’t just be Clinton. It’s going to be all over.” Clinton, which has a population of roughly 27,000, is the largest city near the facility.
Officials in Illinois say the prison would house mostly federal inmates and no more than 100 detainees from Guantanamo. Iowa Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron is opposed to the plan. He says bringing the detainees to the U.S. will attract “their families, their followers, and will be an inspiration to recruit more Al-Qaida terrorists.” Holm says he not so sure about that.
“I understand that these prisoners will not be allowed visitors. They’re detainees and there will be far more federal prisoners rather than detainees at that prison,” Holm said. “I think the key word is ‘detainee’ – we don’t know how long they’ll be there. At the end of the day, when they are not there, it will still be a federal prison.”
President Barack Obama has said that he wants terror suspects on U.S. soil so they can be tried for their suspected crimes. The maximum security prison in Thomson, Illinois was built in 2001. But, state budget problems have kept the 1,600 cell prison from ever fully opening. It currently holds around 200 minimum-security inmates.