Conservatives suggest county prison escape bodes ill for Guantánamo detainee move to IL Supermax

Conservative media figures, including Rush Limbaugh and Jim Hoft, have suggested that the recent escape of three prisoners from the privately managed Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois demonstrates that Guantánamo detainees should not be moved to Illinois' Thomson Correctional Center, as the Obama administration has proposed. But federal officials have stated their intention to enhance the Thomson facility's security to levels exceeding that of the Supermax prison in Colorado, which currently holds numerous terrorists and from which there has never been an escape; moreover, a 2001 Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) study found that privately managed prisons have higher escape rates than federal prisons.

Bloggers, Limbaugh highlight IL prison escape to contrast move of Gitmo prisoners to IL facility

Founding Bloggers: Prison escape, Guantánamo move stories “should strike fear in your heart.” In a January 6 post, Founding Bloggers wrote:

These two headlines, both currently on Chicago Breaking News, should strike fear in your heart - unless you are a Progressive Democrat, in which case it will inspire denial.

State panel votes in favor of Illinois Gitmo plan

Three federal prisoners escape downstate facility

Impeach the Democrats at the polls in 2010

Hoft on proposed Guantánamo detainee move in wake of prison escape: “Good luck.” In a January 6 Gateway Pundit post, Hoft linked to the Founding Bloggers post, writing:

An Illinois state panel voted today in favor of letting Gov. Pat Quinn close a little-used prison in northwestern Illinois so the Obama administration can use it to hold terrorism suspects now held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Meanwhile, three federal prisoners escaped a downstate federal facility in Illinois today.


Good luck.

Talking about prisoner escape story, Limbaugh said, "[T]his is just delicious." On his January 7 radio show, after stating that “this is just delicious,” Limbaugh read from Hoft's post and commented: “Is that not just juicy? Illinois panel votes in favor of the Gitmo plan to bring some prisoners up to that prison in Thomson, Illinois, the same day that three federal prisoners escape a federal prison in Southern Illinois.”

Prisoners escaped from “privately [run] detention facility” that is “owned by” Pulaski County

Prison is “county-owned” and “staffed by contract workers.” According to a January 6 Chicago Tribune report, the prisoners in question “fled from the Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin in Southern Illinois.” The Tribune further reported, “The facility is county-owned and is staffed by contract workers, said U.S. Marshal Don Slazinik, Southern District of Illinois. County, state and federal prisoners are housed there.” Indeed, according to the website of the Pulaski County government, the facility “is owned by the County and it boast [sic] to be the only privately [run] detention facility in the state of Illinois. Pulaski County holds a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service and The Department of Homeland Security to house their detainees.”

Proposed Thomson prison security to exceed that at Supermax prison, which currently holds numerous terrorists

Letter to IL Gov. Quinn: Upon acquisition, Thomson will be upgraded to security levels that “exceed” that at ADX Florence prison. In a December 15, 2009, letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair wrote of the proposal to acquire the Thomson Correctional Center to house detainees currently held at Guantánamo: “The facility was built in 2001 to maximum security specifications, and after acquisition it will be enhanced to exceed perimeter security standards at the nation's only 'supermax' prison in Florence, Colorado, where there has never been an escape or external attack.”

Numerous terrorists held at Florence Supermax. Convicted terrorists currently held at the ADX Florence prison, commonly referred to as Supermax, in Florence, Colorado, include Zacarias Moussaoui, who was found guilty for his role in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; “shoe bomber” Richard Reid; Wahid el-Hage, Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, Mohammed Rashed al-Owhali, and Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, who were convicted of bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998; Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing; and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted “of conspiring to carry out a terrorist campaign of bombings and assassinations intended to destroy the United Nations and New York landmarks, kill hundreds of people and force America to abandon its support for Israel and Egypt.” So-called “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh was once held at the Supermax facility and is now being held at the Federal Correctional Institute in Indiana.

BOP study shows privately run prisons like Ullin facility have more escapes

2001 BOP study: More prisoners escaped from private prisons than BOP. A September 2001 study from the Office of Research and Evaluation at the Federal Bureau of Prisons surveyed private prisons to “gauge [their] general performance”, reporting that more prisoners escaped from private prisons than from the federal system during the period under review:

In contrast to the number of inmate escapes from secure private correctional facilities, the BOP had one escape in 1999 from inside of a secure prison. This was the first escape from a secure BOP facility since 1996. The BOP, with 80,800 inmates in secure prisons in July of 1999, was almost 17 percent larger than the combined inmate populations of all private adult prisons in July of 1999.9 Taken together, private prisons had 18 inmates escape from inside of secure prisons in 1999, and 5 inmates who were housed in secure prisons were able to escape while they were being transported elsewhere.


The data also show that most of the prisons, 85 percent of all private prisons, had no escapes during this time period.

Earlier, it was reported that the BOP had one escape from one facility during the 1999 calendar year. This escape occurred within the time frame covered by the survey. There were 68 secure Federal prisons in operation at the beginning of calendar year 1999. This means that 98.5 percent of BOP secure prisons experienced no escape in 1999.