Hearings on Thomson Prison to Start Soon

Meanwhile, House Republicans want special committee to study prison's sale

Friday, Nov 27, 2009  |  Updated 4:30 PM CDT
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Terrorists in Thomson?  How Ironic

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A key state legislator wants to fast-track hearings on the possible sale of a northwestern Illinois prison to the federal government. A sale of Thomson Correctional Center would open the way for the U.S. to one day house Guantanamo Bay detainees there.

Gov. Pat Quinn's administration filed its recommendation for closing Thomson this week, a a critical step toward what Quinn officials hope will be its eventual sale.

But just as State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg told the Chicago Tribune of a goal is begin the hearings by the end of December, a letter from House Republicans turned up

The letter, by House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, calls for a special committee to study the prison's sale. 

Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat, co-chairs a panel that reviews state-facility closings.

"I support the idea of closing the Thomson facility and negotiating a fair price with the federal government for them to acquire the facility," Schoenberg said. "The area's desperate for jobs and this would appear to be a responsible way to boost the local economy."

Thomson is one location being considered as the Obama administration looks to relocate detainees. President Obama has frequently voiced a desire to close the military-run detention center in Cuba.

Although many Republicans have raised concerns that putting terrorism suspects into the prison would put Illinoisans at risk, Schoenberg dismissed the fears.

"This is not like the 'Field of Dreams,' where if you build it, they will come," Schoenberg said.

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