Thomson Prison Sold to Federal Government

By: Meghan Dwyer Email
By: Meghan Dwyer Email

Quinn: Thomson sale proceeds will pay off bonds

CHICAGO (AP) -- Gov. Pat Quinn says the $165 million from the sale of Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government will pay off bond debt used to build the prison and anything else Illinois lawmakers decide.

   Quinn's preference is to use the money to pay down Illinois' massive backlog of unpaid bills.

   The Chicago Democrat and other state officials announced Tuesday that the now closed facility will be sold to the federal government. State officials say it will create about 1,100 jobs and federal officials say it will ease overcrowding.

   Thomson was built in 2001. Budget troubles kept it from fully opening. It has 1,600 cells but housed fewer than 200 inmates before closing to prepare for a sale.

   Quinn's spokeswoman didn't immediately have a further breakdown on what's owed on Thomson.


Virginia GOP congressman blasts Ill. prison sale

   CHICAGO (AP) -- Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf is blasting the Obama administration's decision to move forward with the purchase of a prison in western Illinois.

   Illinois officials announced Tuesday that federal officials are moving forward with the sale of the now-closed Thomson Correctional Center.

   The sale has been stalled for years, most recently because Wolf believed terrorism suspects would be housed there. The Obama administration says that won't happen. Wolf chairs a key House subcommittee overseeing the sale.

   But federal officials decided to go ahead without his approval. Illinois Democrat U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says it's an unusual move but not illegal.

   Wolf says he's deeply troubled by the sale. He says it's an "unprecedented directive" to "circumvent Congress."

   Thomson was built in 2001, but budget troubles kept it from fully opening.


THOMSON (WIFR) -- After three years of hardball politics, the federal government announced it has bought Thomson Correctional Center from the State of Illinois for $165 million. The checks were cut in federal court this morning, right here in Rockford .

Today Illinois senator Dick Durbin said he was at his wit's end with trying to sell Thomson Prison to the feds, so he turned to President Obama for help and he made the executive decision to buy the prison over the objections of a veteran republican lawmaker.

The state of the art maximum-security prison was built in 2001, but sat mostly unused because the state of Illinois could not afford to run it.

After last year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons had money left over, which is the money being spent on Thomson. Originally, republican lawmakers were blocking the sale because they were worried alleged terrorists from Guantanamo Bay would be housed there, but because Thomson isn't a military prison, that would be illegal. Residents say it's been a long time coming.

“It means a lot. I'm the manager of a local business that has been struggling. It was built in 2000 in anticipation of the prison opening, and we have struggled and struggled and struggled, and this is just a God-send to us,” said Long-Time Thomson Resident, Donna Opheim.

Politicians are not saying when the prison will be open because it still has to undergo some major construction. The money for that still has to be appropriated. It will bring about 1,100 jobs to the area, not to mention millions of dollars in taxes.

The prison can house 1,600 inmates and cost $128 million to build back in 2001. The prison was recently appraised for $220 million dollars. State lawmakers say the federal government got the prison for a bargain.

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