As many ponder the fate of 245 detainees at the soon-to-be-shuttered prison at Guantanamo Bay, the York County commissioners are open to the idea of holding some at the York County Prison, a facility that already holds around 700 federal detainees each day.

But the commissioners have no plans to make the first move. Should the federal government approach the county with a request, they said, they will discuss the issue with federal officials and voice their concerns.

"It's going to be a highly publicized political issue," President Commissioner Steve Chronister said. "There certainly would be further discussion. I'm sure there will be some give and take."

Last week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the controversial detention center within a year.

The prison camps, criticized by human- and legal-rights advocates for alleged inmate mistreatment, held hundreds of people believed to have been involved with terrorist actions against the United States.

With their closing come questions of where to place the detention center's remaining detainees.

So far, foreign officials have stopped short of accepting the prisoners. Meanwhile, many U.S. lawmakers have been wary of resettling the detainees in facilities inside the country.

York County's congressman, Todd Platts, has spoken out against the relocation of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to Pennsylvania.

But the county's history of holding federal detainees goes back years, and the partnership has yielded benefits for both sides.


The federal government has turned the prison into one of the larger immigration detention centers in the country, and its request for more space at the Springettsbury Township prison and an additional immigration courtroom are signs that it's looking to grow.

The county, meanwhile, has charged a per-diem rate that it uses to help balance its budget.

Still, the commissioners say they have some doubts about bringing in the Guantanamo inmates.

"These appear to be the worst of the worst," Commissioner Doug Hoke said.

They aren't sure it's wise to mix them with the existing inmates and immigration detainees. And they're not sure the prison can handle the Guantanamo detainees, although Warden Mary Sabol said that the prison offers both minimum and maximum security beds and that security is not an issue.

They're also not sure the public wants them.

"If there's a significant public outcry, that's something we need to take into account," Commissioner Chris Reilly said.

Sabol expressed concerns not about the nature of these detainees -- the prison houses criminals convicted of homicides, she said -- but about inmates with any special circumstances.

"What I'm more concerned with is if they need medical care," she said.

Regardless, the county is confident it would ultimately have the right to refuse that any Guantanamo prisoner be sent here, as it does with its immigration detainees.

A representative for the Obama administration, which is looking into the detainees and where they should go, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I'm not ruling it out at this point," Reilly said, but "we need to think it through."; 771-2001


  • Nearly 700 immigration detainees fill the roughly 2,425 beds available at the prison.

  • The county charges U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement $63.35 per day per detainee.

  • The federal government is asking for 300 to 600 more beds, and it is building a third immigration courtroom at the prison.

  • County officials believe the detention program can bring in $19.7 million this year.