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IL-SEN Mon Nov 16 2009

Mark Kirk Wants to Know if Prisoners Can Attack Willis Tower...While in Prison

I've been posting on Merge all morning about the possibility of moving Guantánamo Bay terror detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, but this next bit deserves an entire blogpost all its own:

Illinois GOP lawmakers will try to force Congress to vote on a provision requiring the White House to study the potential impact that transferring alleged terror detainees to a prison in their state would have on Chicago's O'Hare airport and the Willis (Sears) Tower before such a transfer would happen.

A handful of the state's congressional delegation took to the mics on Monday morning in Chicago, where Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) announced his intention to amend the upcoming supplemental appropriations bill.

Here, I'll make Kirk's life easier and predict the result of the study right now: The. Prisoners. Who. Will. Be. Locked. In. A. Maximum. Security. Prison. Will. Not. Endanger. Any. Tall. Buildings. Or. Airports. Anywhere.

To reiterate the points I made earlier: Nobody has escaped from a maximum security prison. Ever. These detainees won't be any different. And because they'll be locked up in a maximum security jail they won't have anything to damage a major building or airport with.

But you know what? Kirk probably knows that, too. What he's betting is that the rest of us don't know that and are so gullible that we wouldn't make the connection between prison and imprisonment.


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Rich / November 17, 2009 12:43 PM

"Kirk said he's been bombarded by calls in opposition to the plan..."

It's one thing for a blogger to come out and claim 'things will be fine'...but when you job is one the line, isn't a study a good thing?

If the study finds exactly what you are saying, then that's a step towards educating people.

Let me ask you, should Kirk have ignored those phone calls from his constituents?

Daniel / November 17, 2009 1:27 PM

Okay. Here's the problem, the study doesn't even make sense. How could you possibly test whether having someone in prison in the same state could affect major buildings or aiports? Moreover there's no reason to even conduct a study like that unless you want to gin up skepticism for something people shouldn't be skeptical about. Let me repeat for the umpteenth time. These detainees will not have any contact with the larger prison population and no supermax detainee has ever escaped. Ever. There is no way a terrorist imprisoned in Thomson could have a better chance of blowing up Willis Tower or the airport by being imprisoned in Thomson. It just doesn't make any sense.
You know how Kirk should've responded to those calls by so many of his constituents (which I suspect he's exaggerating)? By simply saying that there's no evidence to suspect these prisoners will escape or be able to harm anyone and note that hosting terrorists in prisons on American soil is NOT NEW. Also, there is broad support in the Thomson community about bringing the detainees to Thomson. Those are the facts. That's what he should have said.

Instead he's saying that moving the detainees to Thomson is basically the same as letting them go. That's just unrealistic.

Rich / November 17, 2009 1:45 PM

Daniel...thanks for your response.

While I agree with you about this issue, I also think a politician has to listen to his constituents.

And while you don't believe Kirk about "phone calls to his office", you have to agree that there are people out there who want, and do not want this to happen.

I'm all for it happening, but while one side is over-stating the 'lack of safety' myth, the other side does seem to be over-stating the economic benefit.

NPR did a story today showing that historically speaking, a prison community never really gets the whole economic benefit that it claims it will get.

A realistic ratio is 3,000 jobs promised normally means about 300 jobs in reality.

Lets expose the lying going on *both sides* so the people of that area can make an informed decision.

If the study includes all socio-economic issues in transferring the prisoners, then that's great.

Daniel / November 17, 2009 1:51 PM


Wow, I honestly thought this wouldn't be a civil thread and yet that's what it's looking like. You raise the one good reason to not host the prisoners which I blog about at my personal site here:

The only good argument against is the benefit which is unclear. Prisons do create short term growth but not necessarily long term which is something the people of Thomson (starved for jobs that they are) need to really consider. The truth is nobody says let's go to Jackson, Michigan (where the state's major prison is) in large part because it's a small town with a big prison. Thomson could be the same way. That's a serious concern. Another one is that Illinois jails are rather overcrowded and governor Quinn wants to give 1000 of the prisoners in these jails early release to ease the crowding. I'd need to see what these prisoners did to definitively take a side there but it does seem that housing them in Thomson instead could solve another problem the state has. I mean do we need to house the detainees in Illinois when we could create jobs by doing the same things with state prisoners? I'm not sure. Still, between the choices of housing the detainees in Thomson or not, I think we should (that's assuming that the Illinois prisoners wouldn't be transferred to Thomson instead) because there is some economic benefit to an area of Illinois that was having troubles before the Great Recession started.

Rich / November 17, 2009 2:18 PM

Daniel...great point.

I'm not as wide eyed about the Economic Benefit as you are, but I think we agree the Willis Tower will be just fine.

Here is the link for that WBEZ story I mentioned if you are interested:

Mike / November 17, 2009 10:25 PM

I work in the Big Willie. 24th floor. Now, as always, I'm still more worried about the homegrown terrorist thugs who've taken over the retail strip by my el stop than the bullshit fear Kirk's selling. But of course Kirk doesn't care about the sociological problems we city dwellers endure. You don't speak for me Mr. Kirk, and I work in the fricking building you're using to grandstand on.

Daniel / November 17, 2009 10:26 PM


Mike / November 18, 2009 10:49 PM

I should add that I'm more worried about the fricking sushi bar place on the second floor running out of makis (it happened once to me and it was so bad I almost called Mark Kirk to voice my concerns) than I am about scary terrorists blowing me up.

It's pretty good sushi.

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