It's been all over the news here.
My very own Northwest Illinois will become one of the homes for the guests of the nation currently housed at Guantanamo Bay! Lucky us, hmm?
Back in the early 2000s, the state built a prison at Thomson, which is only about 10 miles south of where I grew up and 60-some miles north of where I live now. After the prison was built, it was discovered that no one had bothered to allocate money for staff. Since 2001, the place has set largely vacant as a monument to Governor Ryan's corruption and shortsightedness.
Evidently, since President Obama calls Chicago home and possibly he felt the need to toss a few federal dollars back here, we will become part of Guantanamo North and receive about 200 of those worthies pulled in from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other delightful garden spots. The federal government will buy the prison from the state and run it as part of the federal system.
On one level, it does make some sense-we DO have an empty, fairly stoutly built facility sitting empty. Might as well use the place. And they have to be stored somewhere. We appear to be stuck with them, since not too many countries have expressed the desire to take them, or in some cases, take them back.
I have serious misgivings about giving these people constitutional rights and trial in the civilian court system. The civil courts have a lot of legal niceties and procedures not found in either the Military Code Of Justice or in frontier justice (a convenient battlefield 'disappearing'). If we have a terror suspect who confessed to certain acts under duress or enhanced interrogation, then his confession is inadmissable in court. I think there is a distinct possibility that some of these people could walk if tried in civilian courts.
I see what our government is trying to get at, I think. They want to treat the detainees as criminals and try them as such, instead of giving them military tribunals and giving them 'status' as 'warriors'. Will it work? I dunno. I'd probably lean toward the Mafia mathod if it were me having to make a decision on their status.
We do get the 'carrot' of jobs, though. And there will be a few jobs created in the logistic chain supporting the prison. I'm not sure it's going to help all that much-Carroll County is a rural county and most of the people living in it won't qualify for a lot of positions at the prison.
Some of the local talk-radio personalities have railed about the danger of having the detainees in the area. Amazing that people who talk about carrying guns and not taking guff from the 'guvmint' are afraid of having Middle Eastern low-grade terror suspects around. So let me figure this out-the same gun and bunker that will protect you from the 'Guvmint thugs', backed by the preminent military on the planet, won't protect you from a brace of addled terrorist wannabes that might want to liberate their brothers? C'mon, man!
Are they dangerous? Possibly. So are a lot of the Chicago gangbangers in the prison system. Is there an increased risk of terror attacks here? Again, possibly. That's a hazard we've all faced. Americans faced down worse than this bunch and survived.
When Thomson Prison was being considered, I thought that a better location might be 17 miles farther north at the Savanna Army Depot, which was being closed at the same time. The location had existing infrastructure, lots of room for expansion, and was a bit more isolated. Given recent events, I would appear to have been correct.
The SAD had barracks, family housing, and facilities to house a military police company, which would have been a plus had we wanted to close Gitmo and operate an SAD-located prison as a military facility. Now the government will have to spend $125 million to upgrade a state prison. What's a few mill among friends, though?
We'll see how everything plays out, I guess. All I know is that I may have to start my catering service just outside the prison perimeter, specializing in bacon, bratwurst, and barbecued pork. Welcome to America, guys. Get a load of those pig vapors!