The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that it is purchasing the Thomson Correctional Center from the state of Illinois, though it is unlikely to be used to house terror suspects.
According to a press release, "the Department of Justice (DOJ) intends to acquire the Thomson Correctional Center by the end of the year and fully utilize the entire facility."
When the Obama administration was first making plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, it looked to Thomson Prison as a possible destination for the detainees at the Cuba facility. Thomson was a maximum-security facility with around 1,600 cells, but due to budget problems, it hadn't been fully opened. As of late 2009, it housed roughly 200 minimum-security inmates.
The injection of DOJ money would have made Thomson safe enough to house terror suspects, proponents of the move argued. But in May of this year, the House Armed Services Committee derailed that prospect by voting unanimously to prohibit the housing of detainees on U.S. soil.
Now, thanks in part to lobbying efforts by Illinois' congressional delegation, the federal government has decided to take over the prison anyway. Instead of Guantanamo detainees, it will house supermax-security federal prisoners.
More details from the press release (courtesy of Capitol Fax):
The agency has already begun the process of recruiting for positions at the prison, so having the facility operating at full capacity could result in more jobs for residents of Thomson and surrounding areas.
As we have said many times, this move will have an enormous impact on our state -generating thousands of good paying jobs and potentially injecting more than $1 billion into the regional economy. This is an opportunity to dramatically reduce unemployment, create thousands of good-paying jobs and breathe new economic life into a part of Illinois that desperately needs this."
The purchase, activation and operation of Thomson Correctional Center is expected to generate more than 3,000 jobs - roughly half of which are expected to be given to local applicants - and inject more than $1 billion into the regional economy. Currently, there is a critical need for a facility to address federal prison overcrowding problems nationwide and a particularly urgent need for supermax-type bed space. More than 209,000 inmates are in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons, up sharply from 202,000 last year.