Congresswoman Cheri Bustos

Representing the 17th District of Illinois
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Durbin, Bustos: Work Can Begin As Bureau Of Prisons Commits Over $53 Million In Funding To Thomson Prison

Mar 13, 2014
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (IL-17) today announced that the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons has committed $53.7 million in funding to the activation of Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois.  The funding was approved by Congress in January as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014.

Of this funding, $10 million is designated for renovation while $43.7 million will be used for staffing and equipment purchases and upgrades.  The full activation of Thomson prison is expected to take two years at a cost of $25 million for upgrades and renovations and approximately $170 million for equipment and staffing. 

“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,” said Durbin.  “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.”

“Communities across our region of Illinois have spent over a decade thirsting for today’s great news,” said Bustos.  “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.”

Last month, Durbin and Bustos sent a letter to President Obama asking him to include the necessary funding for the second year of activation of the Thomson Correction Center in his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget request. They will continue working to make certain that the Obama Administration remains committed to the activation of Thomson prison and that the next Congressional Appropriations bill includes robust funding for Thomson prison.

In November 2013, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, reiterated his intention to fully activate the Thomson facility.  Citing the challenges due to overcrowding at high-security Bureau of Prisons facilities that ultimately put staff, inmates and communities at risk, Samuels said the agency desperately needs the beds at Thomson to alleviate the problem. 

In July 2013, the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, approved funding for the activation of the Thomson correctional facility at the level that was requested by President Obama in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal which was delivered to Congress last April. The President's plan included $166.3 million to begin the activation of Thomson prison and two other prisons, acquire 1,000 private contract beds and to expand a program to reduce recidivism rates. The federal government’s operation of Thomson is expected to provide a major boost to the local economy and create more than 1,100 jobs.

On October 2, 2012, Durbin and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced that the federal government had purchased Thomson Correctional Center for use as a maximum-security federal prison to alleviate overcrowding in the federal prison system.  The federal government’s operation of Thomson is expected to provide a major boost to the local economy and create more than 1,100 jobs.  Annual operation of the facility is expected to generate more than $122 million in operating expenditures (including salaries), $19 million in labor income, and $61 million in local business sales.

The Thomson facility was built in 2001 by the State of Illinois as a state-of-the-art, maximum-security prison to house the most serious criminal offenders. The bulk of the facility was never occupied, however, and is sitting vacant. The facility was constructed on a 146-acre piece of land and has 1,600 beds with eight compartmentalized units designed for maximum inmate supervision and control. The facility is enclosed by a 12-foot exterior fence and 15-foot interior fence, which includes a dual sided electric stun fence.