Omnibus Bill Will Fund Reopening of Thomson Prison

THOMSON, Ill. — President Obama signed off on a major tax and spending package on Dec. 18, paving the way for the reopening of Thomson Correctional Center (TCC) in Thomson. The sprawling, 146-acre TCC complex has never held more than 200 inmates, and has been shuttered and/or underutilized since its 2001 completion.

The Omnibus funding package will keep the federal government running until Sept. 30, 2016, and includes several major corrections and justice expenditures. In particular the bipartisan-supported legislation allocated $6.95 billion for salaries and expenses to the Bureau of Prisons. This will make available the roughly $83 million in capital and operating costs needed to bring TCC to its full operational capacity, according to a statement by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Durbin, together with Rep. Cheryl Bustos, D-Ill., has long championed the facility’s reopening. In a separate statement, Rep. Bustos noted that the bill provides $133.5 million more than the FY 2015 levels for Federal Prison System operations.

Inmates were removed entirely from TCC 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. Currently, the government intends to use the facility to house maximum-security federal inmates, which will decrease crowding in other federal facilities. Staffing costs and renovations to bring the vacant, eight-unit complex up to correctional standards have been estimated at approximately $195 million.

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. As of September, nearly one quarter of the eventual 1,100 staff positions had been filled.