DECATUR - State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, and state representative candidate Wayne Rosenthal, a Morrisonville Republican, said Monday they oppose Illinois selling the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government to house suspected terrorists.

"Illinois has reached a new juncture when we're importing suspected Islamic terrorists and calling it a job creation program," Mitchell said when the two men stopped at the Herald & Review on Monday.

Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, all Democrats, are supporting selling the largely unused maximum security facility in northwest Illinois.

Quinn said Sunday that federal government operation of the facility would create 3,000 good paying jobs.

The prison is near the village of Thomson which has fewer than 600 residents in the southwest corner of Carroll County. The facility has 1,600 maximum security cells but currently only the 200-cell minimum security unit is operating with about 144 inmates housed there, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections Web site.

Rosenthal, who is seeking the GOP nomination in the 98th Illinois House District, said he spent 30 years in the Illinois Air National Guard, retiring in 2001 as a brigadier general.

"Bringing enemy combatants here would bring their sympathetic supporters to that area and would not be the best for Illinois," Rosenthal said. "Those people were picked up overseas, not in this country. I have confidence in military commissions to prosecute those individuals effectively.

"We should not put a target on the backs of the people of Illinois by bringing these people here. Part of the reason I'm running is to bring common sense to the legislature."

Mitchell said Quinn believes he can act unilaterally to sell the correctional center to the federal government.

"That would be the wrong thing to do," Mitchell said. "We should debate it and vote it up or down."

The 3,000 jobs the governor says the prison operation would create are a faction of the 166,000 jobs the state has lost since January 2003, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he will file a House resolution that will urge Quinn and the Illinois congressional delegation to stop any planned transfer of suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Thomson.

Rosenthal said he supports that resolution and is hopeful Congress will reject the plan.

ringram@herald-review.com|421-7973

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