Page last updated at 18:52 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

From Cuba to Illinois for US prisoners

Thomson Correctional Center

An under-used prison in rural Illinois will become the next residence for inmates from Guantanamo Bay.

With cells made from reinforced concrete,the Thomson Correctional Center is ringed by a 15ft (4.5m) interior "dual-sided electric stun" fence and a 12ft exterior barrier.

The barely occupied jail, about 150 miles (240km) from Chicago, was built in 2001 with 1,600 single cells in its maximum security area and 200 minimum-security beds.

Constant surveillance

Local officials had hoped it would bring jobs to a region plagued by unemployment, but due to state budget problems the maximum-security area remained closed.

Built 2001
Adult male prison
Only minimum-security section operating
No date for opening maximum-security section
Maximum-security capacity: 1,600
Minimum-security capacity: 200
Average daily population: 144
Source: Illinois Department of Corrections

The Illinois Department of Corrections said it would cost $54m (£33m) in the first year of operation and at least that much annually, but with the state facing a financial crisis, it was decided not to operate it.

It was also under-used as the prison population did not increase as projected when the facility was first planned in the late 1990s.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has said it would operate it as a maximum security prison, where inmates are monitored under constant armed and electronic surveillance.

But it would also house Guantanamo inmates "in a completely separate portion of the facility" leased to the Department of Defense.

US media reports suggest up to 100 inmates from Guantanamo Bay will be transferred.

The minimum security area - level seven on a scale of one to eight - became operational in 2006, and has an average daily population of about 144.

If the prison is sold to federal authorities, any remaining prisoners would be transferred to other state facilities, said the Illinois Department of Corrections.

In its report into selling the prison, the Department of Corrections said that the White House Council of Economic Advisers had estimated that the operation of the prison by federal authorities would contribute more than $1bn to the region in the first four years.

The prison complex covers 146 acres and consists of 15 buildings, totalling 625,000 sq ft.

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