If the prisoners are moved to Thomson, "our state and the Chicago Metropolitan Area will become ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment, and radicalization," wrote Representative Kirk in an open letter to President Obama. "As home to America's tallest building and leading defense suppliers, we should not invite Al Qaeda to make Illinois its number one target."
Kirk also noted that any trials of detainees in civilian court would need to take place either in Rockford, Ill., or downtown Chicago, because there are no court facilities near the prison. On Monday, he called for a "homeland security impact study" to examine the danger posed to O'Hare Airport and Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, before any federal funds could be spent to transfer prisoners to Thomson. Another House Republican from Illinois, Aaron Schock, said he would introduce a measure, modeled after one trying to keep Guantánamo detainees from being shipped to South Carolina, that would prohibit the use of federal dollars to move detainees to Thomson.
The prison, a maximum-security facility that the federal government would turn into a super-maximum-security facility, was built in 2001 with fanfare and the promise of jobs. Eight years later, the only part of the prison that has opened is the minimum-security wing. Though Thomson has 1,600 cells, it houses fewer than 150 prisoners.
The idea to sell the prison to the federal government came from Thomson Village President Jerry Hedeler, who in May wrote a letter to Quinn calling attention to the region's economic plight and pleading for attention to be given to the prison. The governor then floated the idea to the federal government, highlighting the prison's safety features, including a 12-foot-high exterior fence and a 15-foot-high interior fence that includes an electric-stun component.