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9 Apr, 2009 09:05

Who will ‘welcome’ Gitmo prisoners?

US President Barack Obama says he wants to proceed with plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. But where will the detainees go? Some say they could move to a maximum-security prison in the town of Alexandria.

Barack Obama has promised to shut the prison doors in Cuba by January of 2010. But over 400 inmates need to be relocated. One destination could be the Alexandria city jail in Virginia, where security was revamped after the 9/11 attacks.

The eight-story building, which may eventually house former detainees from Guantanamo was intended for local criminals.

Prison chief: we can cope

The sheriff’s office feels they would have no problems taking on this new load.

“It’s very labor intensive, but we have an outstanding staff in our jail that are more than willing, and able, and trained, to handle any situation,” said Chief Deputy Lenny George.

But Chief George has been hearing a lot of complaints from surrounding businesses and building owners. They don’t want suspects of ruthless terrorist attacks and murders as their new neighbors.

“I understand there is some concern in the community about this, but again, our mission is very, very, simple,” he said.

“That is, we have a federal contract. We intend to honor that contract, and our staff is well equipped to handle any inmate that walks through our doors."

We want tourism, not prisons – residents

Despite the confidence of officials, bringing in heavily guarded prisoners could drastically change the landscape of Alexandria’s quiet streets. Alexandria is a historic town across the river from Washington D.C. The affluent area wants tourism, and not negative attention.

The Obama administration has yet to decide if trials will be held at the Alexandria federal courthouse. It is just one town on the list, but the possibility of suspected terrorists moving into town is making local residents overflow with anxiety.

“Those people are our dead enemies,” a local resident said.

“They’ve killed our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a WWII veteran and combat hero, I have no use for them. Take them and get them out of this country!”

A local woman shared her fears for her children, saying it’s scary for her to know the Guantanamo detainees are in the town.