Durbin Visits USP Thomson Amid Investigation Into Inmate Deaths, Allegations Of Abuse

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead cosponsor of the First Step Act, and staff from the offices of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) today visited United States Penitentiary Thomson (USP Thomson), a Bureau of Prison (BOP) facility in Thomson, Illinois.  In addition to touring the facility, Durbin met with the penitentiary’s Warden and institution leadership, as well as the BOP North Central Regional Director, to discuss prison conditions, the staffing crisis, and recent reports of inmate deaths and staff abuses within USP Thomson.  Ahead of the visit, Durbin additionally met with AFGE Local 4070 union members who work at USP Thomson.

“The opening of USP Thomson was supposed to improve safety within the Bureau of Prisons, but the reality sadly has been the exact opposite, as evidenced by the current federal investigation into the deaths of seven incarcerated men and allegations of serious abuses by staff.  And USP Thomson is not alone in its challenges—BOP has been plagued by misconduct, and one investigation after another has revealed a culture of abuse, mismanagement, corruption, torture, and death that reaches all the way to the top,” said Durbin.  “Clearly more must be done.  As the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am committed to working with the Justice Department and a new leader at BOP to ensure that reforms are instituted to improve conditions of confinement and ensure the health, safety, and well-being of both staff and incarcerated individuals in our federal prisons, including USP Thomson.”

“It’s simple: reports of inmate deaths, abuse and overworked staff at Thomson—and at any prison—are disturbing and completely unacceptable,” said Duckworth. “I know more work is required to prevent incidents like these from ever happening again, and I’ll keep pushing.”

“As leaders in this community, our top priority at USP Thomson must be safety and security for those who are incarcerated, prison staff and correctional officers,” said Bustos.  “While Senators Durbin, Duckworth and I have worked for years to help ensure this facility has the resources and staffing it needs, the disturbing allegations that have come to light and the current federal investigation has made it clear that there's more work to do to help keep both staff and those incarcerated safe.  I remain committed to continuing to push the federal Bureau of Prisons to take the necessary action to ensure the well-being of everyone at USP Thomson.”

Durbin, Duckworth, and Bustos have long fought to address the staffing crisis at USP Thomson and throughout BOP.  In April 2021, the lawmakers sent a letter to then-BOP Director Michael Carvajal and Acting Director of OPM Kathleen McGettigan urging the administrators to support USP Thomson’s request for a 25 percent retention bonus for nearly all staff, which the lawmakers had been advocating for since 2020.  That funding was successfully secured five months later.

In June, Durbin, Duckworth, and Bustos sent a letter to Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz calling for an immediate federal investigation into disturbing new reports that detailed the deaths of seven incarcerated men and allegations of serious abuses by staff at the USP Thomson. The following week, the lawmakers announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) is opening a federal investigation into these allegations.