Illinois’ Thomson Prison to Reopen

THOMSON, Ill. — After sitting empty for four years, the Thomson Correctional Center (TCC) in northwest Illinois finally has an estimated reopening date. According to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., the Bureau of Prisons has dedicated nearly $54 million to renovate, reopen and staff the 1,600-bed facility.

“This is the news we’ve been waiting for. The funding that the Bureau of Prisons reported to Congress today is a significant investment in the economic future of Northern Illinois,” Durbin said in a statement. “It’s a sure sign that work will begin soon in Thomson and confirms, without a doubt, that the Obama administration remains firmly committed to opening and operating Thomson prison."

The sprawling, 146-acre TCC complex was completed in 2001, but budget issues kept its population at less than 200 inmates. Those inmates were removed completely in 2010, and the federal government purchased the facility for $165 million two years later. The Obama administration had, at one time, proposed transferring inmates from Guantanamo to the TCC, but nixed the plan amid local protest. Now, the government plans to use the facility to house maximum-security federal inmates, which will decrease crowding in other federal facilities.

“This investment by the Bureau of Prisons in Thomson prison means that construction can soon begin, workers can soon compete for good-paying jobs and Northern Illinois will no longer be home to an empty prison,” Bustos said in a statement.

Though the multimillion-dollar allocation will help get the eight-unit facility in good working order, the process will still take roughly two years and an estimated $195 million to fully staff and outfit the vacant building.

The reopening is also expected to have a considerable economic impact and could create up to 1,100 new jobs for residents of Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties. State officials have also estimated that the facility could generate more than $122 million annually through payroll and operating expenses. Local business sales have already been projected to net an additional $61 million in the area.

Congress provided funding for the facility’s reopening in January through the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill. In February, Bustos and Durbin jointly authored a letter to President Obama requesting that he also add funding for the facility’s second year of activation to the 2015 budget. The two have committed to further funding requests to make sure the Obama administration maintains its commitment to fully the reactivating facility.