WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA-02), with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), applauded the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) approval of a 25 percent relocation and recruitment incentive for all departments at Thomson Prison. This new incentive will be made available to new employees at the agency and existing employees who choose to transfer to Thomson. It builds upon the lawmakers’ work to bolster staffing at the facility, such as advocating for increased locality pay, direct hire authority and proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The bonus also requires a service commitment from the applicant which includes one year for recruitment and two years for relocation.
“This is an important step forward in bringing new talent to Thomson in order to address their staffing needs,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “Initiatives like this help strengthen the workforce, ensure the facility can compete with others in the region and support the surrounding community’s economy. I thank my colleagues for their partnership on this issue and will continue to work alongside them to put forward initiatives to recruit and retain staff.”
“This is a positive step forward in our effort to bring additional staff to USP Thomson. It will make the prison a safer place to work, especially as staff and incarcerated individuals at USP Thomson face the dangers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Durbin said.
“Low staffing numbers at the Thomson federal prison have led to long hours and overworked staff, presenting significant risk to staff, inmates and the surrounding community,” Senator Duckworth said. “I’m glad the Bureau of Prisons has agreed to our request to incentivize qualified staff to pursue new career opportunities at Thomson and for existing staff to remain at Thomson, which will help improve staffing levels and overall safety at the prison – especially in light of the ongoing pandemic.”
“Understaffing has long been an issue for Thomson Prison, placing undue burden on the hardworking men and women who run the facility,” said Congressman Loebsack. “This welcomed announcement will help bring in additional qualified employees. I am pleased to have worked with my colleagues and officials at the Bureau of Prisons to approve Thomson Prison for a 25 percent recruitment and relocation incentive. It is imperative that staffing levels are met and qualified applicants are needed to safely and effectively run the prison.”
In addition to today’s announcement, the lawmakers wrote to BOP in August requesting that correctional officers at USP Thomson be provided a 25 percent retention bonus, aligned with the request of AFGE Local 4070. They have also routinely worked with, and called on, BOP to prioritize the staffing needs of the institution in order to maintain safe staffing levels amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. The lawmakers have also called on BOP and the Office of Personnel and Management to grant Thomson Prison direct hire authority in order to cut through a backlog of applications and speed up the hiring process.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Bustos included language in the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations package to encourage the Bureau of Prisons to continue seeking direct hire authority for Thomson Prison. She also included a provision in the Financial Services and General Government appropriations package that encourages the Office of Personnel Management to grant direct hire authority for facilities like Thomson.