Chicago: A state panel on Wednesday voted in favour of closing the Thomson Correctional Centre, a maximum security US jail here and selling it to the federal government to house detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
The bi-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability voted 7-4 to begin the first steps in turning the prison over to the government.
While the decision of the panel is non-binding, it augurs well for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn who can go ahead with the sale of the centre without opposition.
Quinn said moving the Gitmo detainees to Thomson would create up to 3,800 jobs and generate more than a billion dollars in economic activity in "a region that desperately needs both".
The Governor sought to put to rest concerns that moving terror suspects near Chicago could make the state a target for terrorists and jeopardise safety of locals.
"Fully utilising Thomson and upgrading this facility to make it the safest prison in the nation will not jeopardise the safety and security of our country or our state; we would never endorse a plan that would do so," he said.
Despite the fear-mongering and nay-saying of a vocal few, Quinn said "we stand with state and local law enforcement officers and with our nation`s military commanders, who know that this is about making our country safer by removing the deadly recruiting tool that Guantanamo has become". As President Obama works to deliver on his campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo prison, security concerns have been rising about bringing the detainees in Chicago`s neighbourhood.
Some reports have said plotters of the 9/11 attacks, perhaps also mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and USS Cole bombing suspects, could be transferred from Gitmo to Thomson if they are found guilty in a federal trial in New York City.
In a public meeting held on the issue last month, hundreds of locals voiced their opposition and concern over the proposed plan.