Durbin, Quinn: DOJ Announces Plans to Fully Utilize Thomson Correctional Center

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced today that the Department of Justice (DOJ) intends to acquire the Thomson Correctional Center by the end of the year and fully utilize the entire facility.

In a letter to Durbin, Quinn and Congressman Don Manzullo (R-IL), a DOJ official explained that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) plans to make modifications to the prison and hire and train a full complement of staff while the Defense Department and Congress continue to work on authorizing and funding a portion of the Thomson facility for housing Guantanamo detainees.

Durbin and Governor Quinn issued the following statement:

“With this letter today, the Bureau of Prisons has reaffirmed the commitment it made earlier this year to fully utilize Thomson Correction Center and upgrade the facility to make it the safest prison in the nation.  The agency has already begun the process of recruiting for positions at the prison, so having the facility operating at full capacity could result in more jobs for residents of Thomson and surrounding areas. As we have said many times, this move will have an enormous impact on our state –generating thousands of good paying jobs and potentially injecting more than $1 billion into the regional economy.  This is an opportunity to dramatically reduce unemployment, create thousands of good-paying jobs and breathe new economic life into a part of Illinois that desperately needs this.”

The purchase, activation and operation of Thomson Correctional Center is expected to generate more than 3,000 jobs – roughly half of which are expected to be given to local applicants – and inject more than $1 billion into the regional economy.  Currently, there is a critical need for a facility to address federal prison overcrowding problems nationwide and a particularly urgent need for supermax-type bed space.  More than 209,000 inmates are in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons, up sharply from 202,000 last year.

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 facility was never occupied, however, and is sitting vacant.  The facility was constructed on a 146-acre reservation has 1,600 beds with eight compartmentalized units designed for maximum inmate supervision and control.  Security features include:


  • Dual-sided electrical stun fencing capable of carrying 7,000 volts;
  • 312 Cameras on a fiber optic surveillance network with motion detection/remote monitoring capabilities;
  • Armed outer and inner perimeter towers.

Text of the letter appears below:
June 21, 2010

The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Donald A. Manzullo
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Senator Durbin and Congressman Manzullo:

We understand that Harley Lappin, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), recently briefed both of you and your staffs on the significant progress being made by BOP and the State of Illinois in their efforts to complete multiple steps required at the federal and state levels in order to purchase the Thomson Correctional Center. This letter reaffirms the Administration's commitment to acquiring the facility this year and provides additional details about measures that have been taken to date and those that will be taken in the coming months. We are also forwarding a copy of this letter to Governor Quinn in light of the active, ongoing efforts of Illinois state officials on this issue.

As Director Lappin stated in his briefings to you, multiple appraisals of the facility by the federal government and the state are in progress. In addition, officials from BOP's Capacity Planning, Facility Activation, and Site Selection Office and BOP's North Central Regional Office have been meeting with local officials and prospective job applicants throughout the region to discuss staffing needs for operating the institution. These include meetings in Fulton, Illinois on April 21, Moline, Illinois on May 4, Freeport, Illinois on May 5, and Davenport, Iowa on May 6. Additional meetings are planned this month for application and resume workshops at Sauk Valley Community College and Black Hawk Community College.

In response to Congressman Manzullo's request on May 24, 2010, that BOP “separate the GITMO portion of the Thomson plan and proceed with the full utilization of the Thomson Correctional Facility as a stand-alone federal prison," we understand that Director Lappin explained that BOP will have access to the entire facility after it is acquired. BOP plans to make certain modifications to the facility and hire and train a full complement of staff while the Defense Department continues to work with Congress to obtain authorization and funding for a portion of the Thomson facility.

Building and maintaining strong relationships with communities that surround BOP institutions is an important part of our operations. Thank you for your ongoing support, and we look forward to continuing to discuss with you our plans for activating and operating the facility. Please do not hesitate to contact this office if we may be of further assistance with this or any other matter.


Ronald Weich
Assistant Attorney General