The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion poll also found that 45 percent of residents thought it was a good idea. But many politicians including former Mayor Rudy Giuliani seized on the sentiment of the 41 percent and pushed the Obama administration to come up with another location.
In December, President Barack Obama authorized taking the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., into federal control and making it a U.S. penitentiary for the purpose of relocating some Guantanamo Bay detainees there. Charles E. Tucker Jr., who is executive director of the International Human Rights Institute at DePaul University, said the facility could solve more than the problem of what to do with detainees.
“If you close Guantanamo Bay and move people out to the Thomson facility in Illinois, I could easily imagine a federal courtroom set up there where you wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel but could solve the court issue,” Tucker said.
The fact that federal courts are located in populous areas is one concern many have about using civilian courts to try suspected terrorists. According to the Marist poll, 34 percent said they thought holding the trial in New York City would compromise their personal safety. (Fifty-two percent disagreed.)
Tucker cited the example of the federal court building in Chicago, which is located in a densely developed and populated area. Thomson is a rural area of Illinois with a population of about 550 people.
Tucker said he thinks federal law is more than adequate to try suspected terrorists in federal court. But he acknowledged that security is a concern for not only the general population but also those involved in the trial.
“There’s no way to keep a judge’s identity a secret during a trial,” Tucker said. “They could become a lifetime target.”
Matthew Lippmann, a professor of criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said it remains to be seen whether suspects will be tried in civilian courts and, if so, where.
“Obama appeared that he would not use these [military courts] at all, would abolish them, but right now it’s unclear where these 9/11 individuals are going to be prosecuted.”
For an interactive map and more information about the sites considered for the relocation of Guantanamo Bay detainees, click here.