Thomson residents want max security prison

November 16, 2009 4:49:29 PM PST
As federal authorities inspect the Thomson Correctional facility, residents weigh in on whether terror detainees should be housed there. The northwest Illinois facility, which is about 150 miles west of Chicago, is under consideration for housing detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

"People got ready for it and then it didn't pay," said Kimberly Gouty, Carroll County resident

After years of holding out hope their $145-million correctional facility would spark an economic boom for the financially troubled town, some Thomson residents want suspected terrorism detainees from the soon to be defunct Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be housed here.

"It will bring revenue to the area and -- and obviously boost the economy and -- I think the morale," said Mary Gouty, Carroll County resident

Officials from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Homeland Security and the Departments of Defense and Justice arrived in rural Carroll County for an afternoon tour of the site and to talk with local and state officials about buying and turning facility into a federal prison to hold both domestic federal inmates and fewer than 100 Gitmo detainees.

"This is a fine, fine facility. It provides the security enhancements and capability that is we would require and expect," said Harley Lappin, Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Federal officials are also considering prisons in Colorado and Montana. Although the sale could bring about 3,000 jobs to the area and generate around $1 billion over the next 4 years, some are against the idea because of safety concerns and how the perception of the town known for its hunting and fresh fruit might be tainted.

The Thomson Correctional Center was built in 2001 in the northwestern Illinois town of about 600. Located roughly 150 miles west of Chicago, it has been left idle because of state budget problems.

"What I heard so far, Thomson would even be more secure. That would make he sleep at night," said Jerry 'Duke' Hebeler, Thomson village president.

"If we really needed it, we should have opened it. If we didn't need it, why did we build it? We spent a lot of money," said Dave Mackin, daughter lives in Thomson.

Federal officials are also looking at several other sites, including one in Colorado and another in Montana. If Thomson Correctional Facility is chosen and folks are hired here, none of those individuals will guard the detainees, which would be left to the defense personnel.

Right now the prison is operational only at a minimum security level and there are 200 inmates there.


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