Despite a study commissioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein stating American prisons could safely absorb Guantanamo Bay detainees, Sen. Dick Durbin maintained Thursday that housing detainees in U.S. prisons, including Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois, is illegal.
"It's against the law to transfer detainees to Thomson or any other prison in the US," Durbin's communication director Christina Angarola said. "Durbin is opposed to housing detainees at Thomson and the Administration has said repeatedly that they have no intention of bringing any detainees to Thomson, Illinois."
The new report was released about two months after the federal government agreed to buy the closed Thomson Correctional Center in western Illinois for $165 million. President Barack Obama's administration, which supported the sale, said terrorism suspects would not be housed there, but Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf objected to the purchase for fear transfers from Guantanamo would land in Illinois.
"I am concerned that this purchase will set in motion the administration's plan to close the terrorist detention facility in Guantanamo Bay by transferring terrorist detainees to U.S. maximum security prisons, like Thomson,'' Wolf said in a statement in October.
Durbin at that time said he supported the purchase of the prison because it would bring up to 1,100 jobs to the state. He said Thomson isn't equipped to house transfers from Guantanamo Bay.
Feinstein said the study shows the controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be closed and the 166 detainees being held there could be absorbed safely by U.S. prisons.
"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," said Sen. Feinstein, D-Calif., the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman who released the Government Accountability Office study Wednesday.
The GAO study shows that U.S. prisons already hold 373 prisoners convicted of terrorism in 98 facilities across the country.
"As far as I know, there hasn't been a single security problem reported in any of these cases," Feinstein said. "This fact outweighs not only the high cost of maintaining Guantanamo — which costs more than $114 million a year — but also provides the same degree of security without the criticism of operating a military prison in an isolated location."
The study said there are six Defense Department prisons and 98 Justice Department prisons that could take the detainees, but it does say that existing facilities likely would need to be modified and current inmates may need to be relocated to make room for the new arrivals.
Obama ordered the closing of the Guantanamo's detention facility when he took office in 2009, but that was blocked by a Republican-led bill that cut off funding to move the detainees to the U.S. The lawmakers cited security concerns, saying the presence of the detainees would encourage terror attacks in the states or cities where they were being held.
Feinstein commissioned the study in 2008 to find out where the detainees could be held, if the White House was able to move ahead with Guantanamo's closure.