Durbin, Bustos Meet with Federal Bureau of Prisons Director to Discuss Activation of Thomson Prison

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (IL-17) today met with the Director of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, to discuss the activation of Thomson Correctional Center. On July 18, Durbin and Bustos announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, had approved funding for the activation of Thomson at the level that was requested by President Obama in his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal.


“Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee took an important step towards the activation of the Thomson Correctional Center. Today, Congresswoman Bustos and I met with Director Samuels, who assured us that the Department of Justice is also moving forward in this process. Activating Thomson prison will not only help relieve overcrowding in our prison system, but also bring much-needed jobs and economic growth to communities in Northern Illinois. The Obama Administration remains committed to opening and operating the prison and we are making progress every day toward that goal,” Durbin said.


“I was pleased to hear today from Director Samuels that continued progress is being made toward the opening of Thomson prison,” said Bustos. “Thomson prison would not only alleviate overcrowding in our prison system, but its opening will be an economic boon for our region of Illinois and I’m encouraged that the President, his administration, the U.S. Senate, and the Illinois congressional delegation have all made this a priority. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Durbin and the Bureau of Prisons to continue our progress in keeping this job-creating facility on track to open.” 


Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY2014 Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies appropriations bill, which 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. This amount would likely cover the entire cost of upgrades and renovations to the facility.


The full activation of Thomson prison is expected to take two years at a cost of $25 million in fiscal year 2014 for upgrades and renovations and $168 million in fiscal year 2015 for equipment and staffing. The Senate committee-approved legislation includes language that would require the Bureau of Prisons to notify Congress if they are not able to adhere to that activation schedule.

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 severe 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.