Prison Sale Moves Ahead; 1,100 Jobs Expected

Oct 2, 2012

The federal Bureau of Prisons today filed documents in federal court in Rockford to acquire Thomson Correctional Center at a price of $165 million. More than 1,100 jobs are expected to be generated once the facility is fully operational.

The announcement was made this afternoon at the prison by Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Thomson Mayor Jerry “Duke” Hebeler, who initially proposed in 2009 that the prison be sold to the federal government as an economic boost  to the area.

The court-approved sale will repay Illinois the $128.8 million in building costs for the state-of-the-art maximum security prison and eliminate the $800,000 annual cost for it to sit empty, according to Durbin. It would have cost the state $60 million annually to operate at full capacity.

“This is excellent news that will create 1,100 jobs in northwestern Illinois and provide relief to taxpayers across the state who will no longer be forced to pay for an empty, unnecessary facility,” Quinn said.  “I want to thank President Barack Obama and Senator Durbin for their strong support throughout this process. We look forward to Thomson being a fully operational facility that will drive economic growth in the region in the near future.”

The federal government’s operation of Thomson will provide a major boost to the local economy. Annual operation of the facility is expected to generate more than $122 million in operating expenditures (including salaries), $19 million in labor income, and $61 million in local business sales.

U.S. Reps. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, and Bobby Schilling, R-Moline, released a statement on the  sale, which they initially opposed when the Thomson prison was proposed to house prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

“The bottom line is that this is a welcome development for our region, particularly those who have been struggling to find good jobs," the statement said.  "Thomson Correctional Center has been sitting empty for 10 years, costing the residents of Illinois millions of dollars in upkeep and keeping many Illinoisans out of work each year.
“We have been working together towards the same goal of reaching across the divide, finding a solution, and bringing these jobs to our area without moving detainees from Guantanamo to U.S. soil."