Thomson Prison Reopening Closer to Becoming a Reality
THOMSON, Ill. — Washington lawmakers further secured the reopening of Thomson Correction Center (TCC) in Thomson, Ill. by dedicating $106 million to Bureau of Prisons construction. The bill must now be voted on in both chambers and signed into law by President Obama.
Senator Dick Durbin, (D-IL), who has championed the prison’s reopening alongside U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL), said on Dec. 9 that although the facility was not mentioned specifically, as was the case in an earlier funding bill, both lawmakers are confident the facility remains a top priority of the administration.
“A warden has been appointed and hiring has finally begun at Thomson prison. It looks like the long-awaited activation of this prison will finally become a reality,” Durbin said in a statement. “Today’s spending bill…is further proof of both Congress and the Administration’s commitment to opening Thomson Prison as soon as possible.”
“The opening of Thomson prison will be an economic boon for our region of Illinois and help alleviate overcrowding in our nation’s prison system,” Bustos added in a statement. “Full activation of this this job-creating facility is on the horizon, and with a vote later this week can be set in motion. I’ll continue to work closely with Senator Durbin and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to ensure that Thomson Prison remains on track to open.”
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. The renovation process will is expected to take roughly two years and an estimated $195 million to fully staff and outfit the vacant, eight-unit complex.
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 first provided funding for the facility’s reopening in January 2014 through the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill. In February 2014, 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 also committed to further funding requests to make sure the Obama administration maintains its commitment to fully the reactivating facility.
In June 2014 the Senate Appropriations Committee also approved $43.7 million for equipment and staffing to continue the activation of Thomson Prison. The FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, which received bipartisan support, also included $15 million for various repairs and modernization projects at the Thomson, Ill. facility.