Concerns over the sort of inmates that would be housed at the Illinois prison have delayed efforts by the federal government to purchase it from the state. U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder tried to calm those fears Tuesday.
The prison, located in the northwest Illinois community of Thomson, has been a $140 million white elephant for state government. It was built but never fully opened.
A few years ago, the Obama administration floated the idea of buying the prison to house inmates held at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
That prompted a backlash from critics who say they don't want high-level terrorism suspects on American soil.
Although Congress passed a budget that forbids using federal money to transfer such inmates here, critics worry that the administration could find a way around that restriction.
Atty. Gen. Holder tried to put that notion to rest before a Senate committee in Washington.
"We will not move people from Guantanamo, regardless of the state of the law, to Thomson. That is my pledge as attorney general," Holder said.
The plan to buy Thomson has bipartisan support from local congressmen.
But the Republican chairman of the U.S. House committee that oversees the federal prison budget has yet to sign off on the plan, and that's holding up the purchase.