Debate looms over Gitmo in Illinois

Sign greets visitors to Thomson, Ill., home of the Thomson Correctional Center

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: The Obama administration's trying to find a new home Guantanamo Bay detainees. One possibility is a near-empty prison in rural Illinois. Some politicians are wary, but as Joel Rose tells us, some see the move as an economic win.


Joel Rose: Federal officials have their eye on the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois. The state prison is mostly unused, and Thomson village president Jerry Hebeler supports the idea of bringing in detainees from Guantanamo.

Jerry Hebeler: Sure -- it'll help the economy and unemployment. Our unemployment up here is about 10.5. Figure it'll cut it in half.

The Obama administration says a maximum-security federal prison could mean $1 billion in regional economic impact and 3,000 new jobs.

But University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson is skeptical about the number of full-time jobs.

Allan Sanderson: I suspect the real number is probably closer to 500. I think if you take the estimate and divide it by 5, you're probably much closer to reality in these things.

Republican lawmakers say they're concerned about the safety of local residents. They're pushing for more study, while Democrats in the state legislature want to move quickly to sell the prison to the federal government.

I'm Joel Rose for Marketplace.

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