Cash flow may slow Thomson prison plan

December 23, 2009 2:49:25 PM PST
Does the federal government have the money it needs to close Guantanamo Bay prison and move suspected terrorists to Illinois? The New York Times says the Federal Bureau of Prisons doesn't have the cash to make the move happen and Democratic leaders of the House Appropriations Committee are refusing to earmark new money to buy and update the prison.

What does this do to the timeline of transferring suspected terrorists to Thomson, Ill.?

The cells are ready and waiting. Maximum security features are already in place. There's even a book about terrorism in the Thomson prison library. But money matters may slow plans to transfer the underused state prison to the federal government.

"If they're going to sell it for less than $350 million, they have sold out the taxpayers of Illinois," said State Sen. Bill Brady, (R) candidate for governor.

State Senator Bill Brady opposes selling the prison in Thomson. He and other Republicans say they're concerned Governor Quinn has put the state in poor negotiating position.

The prison cost taxpayers $128 million to build ten years ago. Earlier this month Quinn told ABC 7 he hopes the feds will pay between $150 and 200 million for the facility.

"I've got estimates it would cost over $350 million to replace Thomson. If they sell it we're going to have to build another facility. Clearly we need it," said Brady.

"If we're taking on this we should at least get compensated for the potential risk this community and this state could be facing," said State Sen. Dave Syverson, (R) Rockford.

Governor Quinn - who is visiting wounded troops in Germany - refused to discuss the Thomson deal or how much the state can expect to be paid for the prison.

After a hearing with federal prison officials and the department of defense, Republicans are also questioning how many local residents will be qualified to work at the prison. Federal prison jobs require applicants be less than 37 years old and have a college degree.

"He says its for jobs. I'm a business owner, I can tell you there are better ways to create jobs than bringing al-Qaeda to the state of Illinois," said William Kelly, (R) candidate for Illinois comptroller, at Tuesday's public hearing.

A spokesman for Senator Dick Durbin says he anticipate the sale of Thomson to the feds won't happen until March and then it'll take about 10 months to make security upgrades. That pushes the first transfer of inmates to early 2011.

As for paying for it, the White House says the president will work with Congress to find the funds in the new year.


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