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Residents of Michigan Town Want Prison to Stay Open, Even If That Means Housing Guantanamo Bay Detainees

Faith Bowerson, left, and her siblings Spencer and Desiree want the prison in Standish, Mich., where their father has worked for 20 years, to stay open.
Faith Bowerson, left, and her siblings Spencer and Desiree want the prison in Standish, Mich., where their father has worked for 20 years, to stay open. (By Michael Randolph -- Bay City Times Via Associated Press)

Elementary school teacher Kitty Campau wants to keep the prison open, but she considers Guantanamo Bay detainees a last resort.

"That scares me," she said after choir practice at a Catholic church whose parishioners have been protesting the closure plan. "We have high-risk prisoners there now, but not terrorists."

Michigan Sen. Carl M. Levin (D) and Reps. Dale E. Kildee (D) and Bart Stupak (D), who represents Standish, have said they are open to the idea of bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to the state. On the question of whether Standish should be the site, Stupak said he will reserve his opinion until federal and state officials have further studied economic and security issues.

Officials from the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security will visit potential sites for Guantanamo Bay detainees in the next few weeks, Stupak's office said. Michigan corrections spokesman John Cordell said the California deal may be finalized soon, which could mean no inmates from the prison in Cuba.

"It's hard to believe the feds and lawmakers could get their act together overnight, and California could make a decision any minute now," said Mel Grieshaber, executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization, the union representing prison guards.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.) said he opposes bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to Michigan, based on information he sees as the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He thinks locals would be endangered by affiliates of the detainees coming to the area.

"If President Obama wants to move Gitmo jihadists to Standish, I would hope he would brief the local officials and guards," he said. "I want to make sure everyone has a much more comprehensive view of who these people are and the threat they pose to those in the facility and the community. I think if they knew what I know, they would make the same decision as me. Michigan can do a lot better than becoming the federal government's penal colony."

During a media call for the Republican National Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) echoed this sentiment, saying Guantanamo Bay inmates should not be anywhere in the continental United States. Roberts threatened to shut down the Senate before allowing the detainees in Kansas, and Rogers suggested that Guantanamo Bay's name be changed rather than closing the facility.

But auto mechanic Gary Church, 50, laughed at the idea that locals would be in danger.

"If they do get out, they're not going to rob the general store," he said. "They are thinkers and planners, not street criminals. They do big stuff."

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