The Guantánamo Bay military prison may have to remain open until 2011 to allow an Illinois prison time to prepare for the arrival of the detainees, according to Dec. 23 AP reports. A spokesperson for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said the government’s plan to purchase the Thomson Correctional Center and refit it will take months to complete, rendering President Barack Obama‘s original promise to close the Guantánamo detention facility by January 22, 2010, impossible.
In addition, Congress would have to change a law—part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010—that allows Guantánamo detainees to be transferred to the US only for prosecution, and pass a bill approving funding for the project.
There have been protests from both sides of the aisle as well as from Illinois residents against bringing the remaining detainees, who number under 200, to the prison. The commission that will recommend to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn whether to sell the prison to the federal government will not make a decision until the middle of January.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said that buying the facility in Illinois will speed the closure of Guantánamo Bay, suggesting that the facility could be closed as early as next fall. (Jurist, Dec. 24)