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Lawmakers: Thomson still on track for full activation

Durbin, Bustos tour facility, say they’re encourage by progress at prison

THOMSON – Two Illinois lawmakers said Tuesday that the federal government remains committed to a full activation of the Thomson prison.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, both Democrats, toured the prison Tuesday and received an update on the activation from the federal Bureau of Prisons.

“Today, Congresswoman Bustos and I were assured that the activation of Thomson prison remains on schedule and that they are making good progress on critical infrastructure projects,” Durbin said in a news release.

Durbin said the Thomson facility is a key component of the Department of Justice’s plan to address overcrowding and other challenges within the corrections system.

A fully activated Thomson prison would reduce overcrowding at federal high-security facilities from 25 percent down to 19 percent, the Bureau of Prisons said.

In a bill passed last month by the Senate Appropriations Committee, $80 million was included for the activation of the prison – the exact amount requested by the Bureau of Prisons.

The next financing step will come in the fall session on Capitol Hill. The budget legislation must be passed by the full Senate and then reconciled with the version in the House.

Bustos said she and Durbin will continue to fight to make sure the prison is adequately funded.

“Following our tour today, Sen. Durbin and I are encouraged by the progress being made at Thomson, and we’ll continue pushing to provide the federal funds needed to get Thomson to full activation,” Bustos said in the release.  

The state finished building the prison in 2001, but it sat empty for more than a decade because Illinois didn’t budget enough money to open it. In 2012, it was announced that the Bureau of Prisons would buy the facility for $165 million.

The prison, which can house up to 2,800 inmates, was to employ 1,100 people at full activation. Employees and prisoners have been brought in gradually, in accordance with each year’s funding levels. While full activation was said to be a possibility in both 2016 and 2017, no target date has been set by federal officials.

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