Constitution Project Welcomes Thomson Acquisition if Used for Pre-Trial and Post-Conviction Detention

Facility should not be used for indefinite or prolonged detention without charge

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON – It was widely reported this morning that the Obama administration will announce later today that the federal government will acquire the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois to hold a limited number of suspected terrorists currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. What remains unclear is the purpose to which the detention facility will be put. In May, President Obama proposed “prolonged detention” for those the government is unable to charge. The Constitution Project welcomes the Thomson acquisition for pre-trial detention and post-conviction incarceration only, and cautions that any “indefinite” or “prolonged detention” policy would be met with strong resistance.

“There is broad bipartisan support for the use of federal prisons to hold Guantanamo detainees who are facing charges or have been convicted in federal court,” said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. “Former members of Congress and U.S. Attorneys from Illinois, a former federal judge and influential conservatives all agree that U.S. prisons have the proven track record to successfully hold these men and protect the surrounding communities. But that support quickly evaporates if the administration’s plan is to hold suspected terrorists under a ‘prolonged detention’ policy that runs counter to our most basic constitutional principles.”

When news first broke that the Thomson facility was under consideration, the Constitution Project organized two statements of support for using federal prisons to hold Guantanamo detainees pre-trial and post-conviction. On November 16, Bob Barr, former member of Congress (R-GA), David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, released a Statement on Using U.S. Prisons to Hold Guantanamo Detainees. Since its release, the Statement has been joined by five other prominent conservatives.

More recently, on November 30, two former Illinois prosecutors and a former Illinois member of Congress and federal judge sent an open letter to the Illinois congressional delegation and the state’s public officials supporting the use of federal prisons, including the Thomson facility, to house Guantanamo detainees pre-trial and post-conviction. The letter was joined by Abner J. Mikva, former Illinois member of Congress and former federal judge, Thomas P. Sullivan, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Dan K. Webb, also a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

A related statement, Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration, supports the use of traditional federal courts for prosecuting suspected terrorists and opposes the use of indefinite detention without charge. In an effort coordinated by the Constitution Project and Human Rights First, the Declaration has been joined by over 135 prominent Americans, including former members of Congress, diplomats, federal judges and prosecutors, high-level military and government officials, as well as national security and foreign policy experts, bar leaders, and family members of 9/11 victims.

Click here to view the conservative Statement on Using U.S. Prisons to Hold Guantanamo Detainees.

Click here to view the open letter supporting federal and state prisons for pre-trial and post-conviction detention.

Click here to view Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration Signatories To Date.

Donate Now

US Constitution

Upcoming Events