In an attempt to meet the self-imposed January deadline for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the government has said it will purchase a nearly empty state prison in Thomson, Illinois, and transfer up to 100 prisoners currently held at the Cuban base.
The official announcement to buy the Thomson Correctional Center came Tuesday.
An anonymous government official was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying that the decision "is an important step forward as we work to achieve our national security objectives," adding that it will help remove "a deadly recruiting tool from the hands of al-Qaida."
State officials have also pointed out that the plan would create about 2,000 new jobs and bring some $1 billion in federal funds to the area. Meanwhile, administration officials put the estimated number of new jobs at 3,800.
Just days after taking office last January Obama signed an executive order to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year and to ban harsh interrogations techniques. Since its opening in 2002, the detention center has come under international criticism from governments and human rights groups alleging prisoners were held there without due process and may have been tortured.
In recent months nearly 100 of the 210 detainees at Guantanamo have been cleared to be transferred to their home countries and other nations, and five are awaiting trial in New York.