SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WBBM/CBS) — Several state lawmakers have confirmed what the governor’s office and federal officials will not – the State of Illinois will sell the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports, the state-of-the-art prison was built in 2001 and has 1,600 beds, but has sat empty since then because the state could not afford to open and staff it.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports
But state Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) says the federal government will buy it for about $165 million and open it as a federal prison. He says he can’t wait until those jobs are infused into his local economy.
“People are lined up already to be hired,” says Jacobs. “The Bureau of Prisons has very strict guidelines on who they hire. You have to be between a certain age and have certain capabilities, but it’s going to be a boon to this area.”
The prison recently appraised for about $220 million, but the state built it for $140 million 10 years ago. The federal government says no terrorism suspects will be housed there.
The money to finance the purchase must still be appropriated, and it’s unclear when the deal will be finalized.
In 2009, the Obama administration proposed that Thomson could be used to house Guantanamo detainees after the infamous detention camp is closed.
Gov. Pat Quinn said at the time that stashing former Gitmo detainees at the prison could rake in as much as $21 billion over four years.
Many objected on principle to holding terror suspects on American soil. Also, several Republican Illinois lawmakers – including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), then in the U.S. House, as well as Reps. Donald Manzullo, Judy Biggert and Peter Roskam – expressed concerns that the prison’s proximity to Chicago would mean the city might become a terrorist target if Guantanamo Bay detainees were held there.
The prison would have housed fewer than 100 of the Gitmo detainees.
Ultimately, the point became moot. The previous Congress adjourned its lame-duck session in December of last year without providing funding to convert the Thomson prison into a federal Supermax facility, and Guantanamo remains open.