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CHICAGO: Federal government to buy Ill. prison for $165M | THE JEENYUS CORNER

THE JEENYUS CORNER

CHICAGO — The federal government has agreed to buy the closed Thomson Correctional Center in western Illinois for $165 million after the sale was held up for nearly three years, state leaders announced Tuesday.

Many Illinois leaders – including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn who spoke to The Associated Press ahead of a news conference to announce the sale – supported the purchase because they said it would bring up to 1,100 jobs to Illinois. Federal officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have said it would help alleviate prison overcrowding.

“It means a prison that has been sitting here empty will be used again and create a lot of opportunity for working families in the areas,” Durbin said.

The sale of the facility in the tiny Illinois village of Thomson has been stalled for years. Most recently, Virginia Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who heads a key House subcommittee overseeing the federal Bureau of Prisons, objected to the purchase because he believed terrorism suspects would be housed there. The Obama administration, which supports the sale, has vowed that won’t happen and federal law now prohibits any transfers from Guantanamo Bay to Thomson.

Durbin reasserted that vow Tuesday, saying transfers from Guantanamo Bay must be housed in a military facility and that Thomson, 150 miles west of Chicago, would not be equipped to serve that purpose. He added that getting someone like Wolf to sign off is a longstanding courtesy but not a legal necessity. Illinois leaders repeatedly tried to meet with Wolf to change his mind but were unsuccessful, the Democrat said.

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