Thomson Correctional Center

Chase Cavanaugh

Two senior U.S. Senators toured a federal prison in northwestern Illinois Tuesday.

The Administrative United States Penitentiary is based in Thomson, Illinois. Budget shortfalls meant the facility was sold to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012.  Since then, staff and inmate numbers have gone up, but new employees are having difficulty finding nearby housing. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois explains.

Chase Cavanaugh

A federal prison in Thomson, Illinois is looking to expand its workforce, but they're facing difficulty enticing workers to settle down locally.

Administrative United States Penitentiary, Thomson was built in 2001. It sat empty for years until it was bought by the federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012. The prison has slowly boosted its hiring and operations since 2015. Local residents were optimistic about a new jobs pipeline, and Thomson Village President Vicky Trager says there's solid evidence of new hires.

State of Illinois

Thomson Prison is on course to open by the end of 2019. 

The prison was built by Illinois in 2001, but state government didn't have enough funds to keep it running. As a result, it was sold to the federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012.  The Bureau's Acting Director, Hugh Hurwitz, says it will open as a high-security facility with some specialized units and have up to 600 employees. 

West Carroll C.U.S.D. #314

More than two dozen West Carroll Middle School students on an annual field trip  to Thomson, Ill., were taken to area hospitals Thursday after exposure to tear gas from the nearby Administrative United States Penitentiary.

About 40 seventh-grade students from the school were on the trip north of the prison when the wind shifted. That blew gas being used in a prison training exercise some distance away over the students and accompanying staff. When some complained of discomfort due to eye, nose and throat irritation, emergency personnel were called in.  

Voices for Creative Non-Violence /

A 125-mile walk from Chicago to Thomson ends Saturday for a group protesting solitary confinement. 

Voices for Creative Non-Violence holds a rally outside Thomson Prison, where the federal government plans to add as many as 19-hundred isolation cells. The group’s co-coordinator Kathy Kelly says she hopes Thomson residents will join their rally.  She says she sees this as “the beginning of an opportunity to learn more from people in this little town of 600.”

Jenna Dooley

There’s activity at a long-dormant prison in northwest Illinois. Residents in Thomson have lived more than a decade in limbo waiting for it to open. Now, it’s time.

Ready for Change

At a recent prayer service in Thomson, longtime resident Arlene Eslinger says she has a lot on her heart these days. She says residents are getting older. People want change, but Eslinger fears Thomson isn’t prepared for an influx of prison workers and their families.

Thomson Could Be Ready In Two Years

Apr 11, 2013
Thomson Correctional Center

A northern Illinois prison could reopen in two years.  President Obama's budget proposal includes $166 million dollars for the Thomson Correctional Center and two other prisons. if fully funded by Congress, the proposal would cover the cost of upgrades, equipment, and staffing at the facility.

Light At The End Of Tunnel For Thomson Opening

Feb 11, 2013
Mike Moen

Federal officials are taking initial steps in their plans to open the Thomson Correctional Center. They say they’re eager to activate the modern, but little-used facility, which was sold by the state of Illinois last fall. As the process unfolds, people in and around Thomson are guarded in their optimism about the economic jolt the prison is expected to provide.

Thomson Correctional Center

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.

State lawmaker questions Thomson proposal

Aug 21, 2012

State Senator Mike Jacobs says it would not be good government policy to give the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government. That suggestion came in a letter from State Representatives Jim Sacia and Rich Morthland. The two Republicans have sent a letter to Governor Pat Quinn saying that handing over Thomson to the feds would get the ball rolling on creating much needed jobs for the area surrounding Thomson.

State of Illinois

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is rejecting calls to reduce the asking price for a state prison the federal government wants to buy. He’s also rejecting the idea that Illinois should not try to sell the federal government two prisons at once.

Thomson Correctional Center, in northwest Illinois, has barely been used in the decade since it was built. Illinois and the federal government agreed to a price of $165 million -- significantly less than the $220 million dollars at which that facility has been appraised.

And Quinn plans to close the super-maximum security prison at Tamms, in southern Illinois, as a cost-saving move. It's one of the newest state prisons and, once it's empty, Quinn hopes the federal government will be interested in buying it as well as Thomson.