THOMSON – A Federal Salary Council ruling could help ongoing staffing issues at Thomson Prison.
The council last week voted to add Carroll County to the Davenport-Moline Locality Pay Area, which means a raise for 335 federal government employees in the county.
The federal government’s Office of Personnel Management uses locality pay areas to compare salaries for government jobs to those of non-government jobs in that area in order to offer higher wages to the federal government employees if those people would be earning more money in the private sector.
Prior to adding Carroll County, the Davenport-Moline LPA included Scott, Clinton and Muscatine counties in Iowa, as well as Henry, Mercer and Rock Island counties in Illinois. Bureau County is part of the Chicago LPA. Whiteside, Ogle and Lee counties are designated as ‘Rest of U.S.,’ as was Carroll County prior to the FSC ruling.
According to usajobs.gov, a correctional officer at Thomson had a starting salary of $54,668, and a medical records technician was paid $43,065 before the pay bump.
The disparity in pay between what a corrections officer could make at Thomson compared with a state prison or a federal facility in a city such as Chicago is one of the reasons the union representing staff at Thomson, American Federation of Government Employees Local 4070, felt was leading to ongoing staff shortages.
Thomson is authorized by the Bureau of Prisons to have 465 corrections officers, but has just 201.
“The Bureau of Prisons, along with USP Thomson staff, are looking into creative ways to increase staffing at this time,” said Emery Nelson of the BOP’s Office of Public Affairs.
Those ways include holding job fairs, such as the one Thomson hosted Saturday, as well as posting jobs on usajobs.gov, indeed.com, monster.com and ziprecruiter.com. Thomson also has its own recruitment hotline, where people interested in joining the staff can call 815-259-1666.
As of Tuesday, Thomson has an inmate population of 1,327, up from the 1,090 the facility housed in August, although Nelson said that inmate transfers to Thomson, built to house 2,800 inmates, have slowed to allow for additional staff growth. The number of corrections officers on staff to oversee those inmates has remained steady.
When the facility first opened, officials claimed it would employ 1,100 people.
Construction on the facility was completed in 2001, built by the state of Illinois. But the state never had the money in its budget to open Thomson, and sold it to the federal government for $165 million in 2012.