Lawmakers React To Thomson Prison Sale - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Lawmakers React To Thomson Prison Sale


The news of the Thomson Correctional Center being sold to the federal government is getting praise from elected officials on both sides of the aisle. 

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, along with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D) Ill., announced Tuesday that the prison in Thomson sold for $165 million. The sale took place in federal court in Rockford, and is said to bring over 1,000 jobs to the surrounding area as its converted to a federal lock-up.

After years of uncertainty, Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin were in Thomson to let the community know this deal is real. There has been a plan on the table for over a year, but with it less than a month away from the elections, some ask if it was politically motivated. 

TV6 talked to lawmakers on both sides of the party line. They say it was a team effort by local legislators to make it happen. It started in 2009, when the Mayor of Thomson contacted local lawmakers nearly every week to make it happen. There were some setbacks with some opponents to the sale fearing terror suspects held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, might be sent to Illinois. Officials say that won't happen.

Durbin says in March, he was able to convince President Obama that there were no other options for Thomson and a sale to the federal government was the only way to go. Now, after working with other lawmakers and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the prison, which never full opened, is off the state's back. Legislators say its good news no matter how you look at it.

 "The fact is we got together and said we're gonna get this done, said Sen. Durbin. "We ran into some obstacles. It took a lot longer than we thought it would, but we got that done. And now we're going to move forward and make this a federal prison."

"There's no such thing as Democratic jobs, or Republican jobs, they're American jobs. And that's what this is all about, " added Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

17th District Congressman Bobby Schilling wasn't in office when negotiations to sell Thomson began, but he says it's important to see it through.

"The big thing now, we're going to have to work on is to make sure we can make appropriations to make sure we have the funds available to run it. It's going to take a bi-partisan effort, just like the work on this, this is all a bi-partisan effort," Schilling said.

There's still an undetermined amount of money Illinois owes on the Thompson prison, which was built in 2001 at a cost of $130 million. Governor Quinn told KWQC-TV that after its is paid off, he would like the remaining money to go toward unpaid bills in Illinois, naming healthcare as one of the many possibilities. It'll be up to the state legislature to figure out just where the money will go. 

There will need to be $40 to $50 million in construction on the facility to bring the prison up to federal standards. There's no date yet on when the prison will be ready to open.


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