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Thomson Correctional Center is an Illinois Department of Corrections maximum security prison located just north of Thomson, Illinois. 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.[1][2][3] However, from its completion in 2001 to 2006, it sat empty[4] and, as of 2014, only the minimum-security section houses prisoners.[1][2] On April 30, 2010 Thomson closed.[5]


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 that the prison would have a negative impact on the environment, especially being so close to the Mississippi River.[6]

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.[7] By 2009, the total cost to the state of Illinois exceeded $170 million.[8] The minimum security unit has an annual budget of $7 million.[9] State budget constraints as well as labor union opposition to closing other state prisons prevented the maximum-security prison from opening.[9]

In 2008, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed to close the state prison in Pontiac, Illinois and to open the Thomson maximum-security unit instead. However, Blagojevich was subsequently arrested on December 9, 2008, and removed from office. His replacement, Governor Pat Quinn cancelled plans to close the Pontiac prison in March 2009, leaving Thomson unused.[9]

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s office announced on October 2, 2012 that the Obama administration and Federal Bureau of Prisons is buying the Thomson Correctional Center from the Illinois for $165 million.[10][11][12] 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.[13] This statement was echoed in letter from U.S. 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.[14] Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said the move would create 1,000 jobs in the area of Thomson.[14] Federal officials have said that building a new prison instead of buying Thomson would cost about $400 million and take years.[11] 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.[11]

Transfer of Guantanamo Bay detaineesEdit

On December 15, 2009, 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.[15] According to previous press reports, the acquisition plan contemplated housing there up to 100 inmates from the camp, in addition to other federal prisoners.[16] The Federal Bureau of Prisons will erect a more secure perimeter fence, so its perimeter security exceeds supermax standards.[17] 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.[18][19][20] CNN stated that before the decision was announced, many in the town welcomed the idea of Guantanamo prisoner housing in their town as the hopes will revitalize the town's economy and bring jobs.[9][16] However, funding for detainee transfers was blocked and the Obama Administration has no more plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees to Thompson.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Thomson Correctional Center". Springfield, Illinois: Illinois Department of Corrections. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Illinois prison eyed to house Guantanamo detainees (update 1)". Reuters. 2009-11-15. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  3. Illinois Department of Corrections (2009-11-28). "Thomson prison by the numbers". Quad-City Times. Davenport, Iowa. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  4. Mounce, Kyle (2006-09-06). "Doors Open at Thomson Prison". WHBF-TV. Rock Island, Illinois. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  5. "IDOC News: Notice of Thomson CC Potential Closure." Illinois Department of Corrections. Retrieved on July 10, 2010.
  7. "Thomson Prison Timeline". Quad-City Times. Davenport, Iowa. 2009-11-29. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  8. Erickson, Kurt (2009-12-15). "No timetable yet for prison deal". Quad-City Times. Davenport, Iowa. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Barrett, Joe (December 19, 2009). "Guantanamo Detainees Welcome Here". Wall Street Journal. p. A6. 
  10. Cratty, Carol (2 October 2012). "Obama administration proceeds with controversial prison purchase". CNN. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Tareen, Sophia. "Thomson Prison In Illinois To Be Purchased By Federal Government For $165 Million". Associated Press. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  12. Straw, Joseph (2 October 2012). "Obama administration moves to purchase empty Illinois prison that was once at the center of Guantanamo military prison controversy". Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  13. Kopan, Tal (2 October 2012). "Obama administration buying Illinois prison over Hill objections". Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Ingram, David (2 October 2012). "U.S. to buy prison once viewed as a Guantanamo successor". Reuters. The Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  15. Presidential Memorandum--Closure of Dentention [sic on website] Facilities at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
  16. 16.0 16.1 Fantz, Ashley (2009-12-15). "Many in Illinois town hope locating Gitmo detainees there helps business". Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  17. Mackey, Robert (15 December 2009). "From Guantánamo to Beyond 'Supermax'". Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  18. Savage, Charlie (16 November 2009). "Illinois Site May Be Path to Closing Guantánamo". Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  19. Lothian, Dan; Jill Dougherty (15 December 2009). "Illinois to get some Gitmo detainees, official says". CNN. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  20. Jackson, Henry C. (15 December 2009). "Ill. prison to get Gitmo detainees". AP. Retrieved 2009-12-15. [dead link]

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 41°58′20″N 90°6′30″W / 41.97222°N 90.10833°W / 41.97222; -90.10833

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