Thomson Correctional Center
Thomson Correctional Center is an Illinois Department of Corrections maximum security prison located just north of Thomson. It has an area of about 146 acres (59 ha) and comprises 15 buildings. The facility is enclosed by a 15-foot (4.6 m), 7000 volt electric fence surrounded by an additional 12-foot (3.7 m) exterior fence covered with razor wire. Thomson has eight cellhouses with 1,600 total cells, and an additional minimum-security unit with 200 beds. However, from its completion in 2001 to 2006, it sat empty and, as of 2009[update], only the minimum-security section houses prisoners.
The building of the prison was controversial; early plans suggested using the site of the former Savanna Army Depot, several miles north of Thomson. One of the main reasons the prison was controversial was concern[who?] that the prison would have a negative impact on the environment, especially being so close to the Mississippi River.
Thomson Correctional Center was built between May 1999 and November 2001. Its completion cost $140 million, but the state omitted opening costs from the 2002 budget, and Governor George H. Ryan called for a delay to the opening to save $50 million per year in operating costs. By 2009, the total cost to the state of Illinois had exceeded $170 million. The minimum security unit has an annual budget of $7 million. State budget constraints as well as labor union opposition to closing other state prisons prevented the maximum-security prison from opening.
In 2008, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed to close the state prison in Pontiac and to open the Thomson maximum-security unit instead. However, Blagojevich was subsequently arrested on December 9, 2008, and was removed from office. His replacement, Governor Pat Quinn, cancelled plans to close the Pontiac prison in March 2009, leaving Thomson unused.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s office announced on October 2, 2012, that the Obama administration and Federal Bureau of Prisons would buy the Thomson Correctional Center from the state of Illinois for $165 million. An administration official said the deal was to address overcrowding issues, and Thomson would not be used to house any Guantanamo detainees, which the official noted was prohibited by law. "The entire facility will house only [Bureau of Prison] inmates (up to 2,800) and be operated solely by BOP. Specifically, it will be used for administrative maximum security inmates and others who have proven difficult to manage in high-security institutions," said the official, who asked not to be named. This statement was echoed in a letter from United States Attorney General Eric Holder. "I have committed that no Guantanamo detainees will be transferred to Thomson. As you know, any such transfer would violate express legal statutory prohibitions," Holder said in a letter to Representative Frank Wolf, who fought the proposal.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said the move would create 1,000 jobs in the area of Thomson. Federal officials have said that building a new prison instead of buying Thomson would take years and cost about $400 million. State officials estimated that annual operation of the facility would generate more than $122 million in operating expenditures, including salaries and $61 million in local business sales.
Transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees
|Wikinews has related news: Guantanamo inmates to be transferred to Illinois|
On December 15, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama, via a Presidential memorandum, formally ordered the departments of Justice and Defense to arrange federal ownership of the prison, and prepare for transfer there of both federal prisoners and Guantanamo detainees. According to previous press reports, the acquisition plan contemplated housing there up to 100 inmates from the camp, in addition to other federal prisoners. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will erect a more secure perimeter fence, so its perimeter security exceeds supermax standards. The portion of the Thomson prison that will be used to house Guantanamo detainees will be operated by the Department of Defense, while the rest of the prison will be operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
CNN stated that before the decision was announced, many in the town had welcomed the idea of Guantanamo prisoners being housed in their town, in hopes it would revitalize the local economy and bring jobs. However, funding for detainee transfers was blocked and the Obama Administration has no more plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees to Thomson.
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- Presidential Memorandum--Closure of Dentention [sic on website] Facilities at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
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