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Before Illinois prison sold for Gitmo North, State of Illinois must conduct economic impact analysis

WASHINGTON–Illinois State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) briefed me Thursday on what is involved on the state end in selling Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois to the federal government.

The Obama administration is considering asking Illinois Gov. Quinn to sell the nearly vacant Thomson to the federal Bureau of Prisons, which in turn would lease a portion to the Defense Department to run a military prison for Guantanamo detainees. Sen. Dick Durbin is leading the drive for Thomson; Illinois House Republicans and Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) are against the plan.

Schoenberg is the Senate co-chair of the 12-member state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which plays an advisory role in the decision.

Schoenberg outlined the process once Quinn says in writing he wants to sell a state property. He said the state Central Management Services department has to declare it surplus; it has to be offered first to local units of government to see if they want to buy it; then there is an appraisal and then the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability looks at the sale to determine if it is a good idea.

The law calls for the 12-member body to have a formal hearing process, which includes a “detailed public examination of the impact of closing a state facility, including the economic impact,” Schoenberg said. The Illinois Department of Corrections would also conduct there own economic impact analysis.

The commission findings are advisory and in the end, the Illinois General Assembly cannot veto what Quinn wants to do.

The White House has not announced a timetable for making a decision.