Mich. prison assessed for Gitmo transfers

The Associated PressAugust 14, 2009 

— Federal and state officials visited a maximum-security prison Thursday in rural Michigan to begin assessing its suitability to house Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Eighteen representatives from the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security departments and the Bureau of Prisons joined about a dozen state officials to tour the facility, said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The prison in Standish, 145 miles north of Detroit, and a military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., are being considered to house 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters currently at Guantanamo Bay if it is closed by 2010, as President Barack Obama has ordered.

Wednesday's visit was a fact-finding inspection; officials had not proposed sending detainees to Standish, Marlan said.

"The visit to Standish is to do a preliminary site survey," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in Washington. "No final decisions have been made."

Marlan said the group looked at six housing units, the administration building, the health-care wing and the cafeteria, where they lunched on the same meal the inmates were served: Salisbury steak, beans, spinach and carrot cake.

None of the federal officials commented to reporters as they left for private meetings with local officials.

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