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November 15, 2009

Governor Quinn Announces Obama Administration Exploring Use of Thomson Correctional Center
Federal Bureau of Prisons to Evaluate Options for Near-Vacant Facility

MOLINE – November 15, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today joined U.S. Senator Richard Durbin to announce that senior Obama Administration officials will consider plans to use the Thomson Correctional Center. Those plans could include a purchase of the facility by the Federal government.

UPDATE: 11/16/09 - Governor Quinn and U.S. Senator Durbin answer questions about possible federal use of Thomson Correctional Center

Thomson, a virtually vacant, state-of-the-art prison, will be evaluated by representatives of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, who are expected to visit the facility this week.

“We will work with the Obama Administration to determine ways the Thomson facility can be fully-used to best serve the public. Any future decisions regarding Thomson will first and foremost focus on ensuring public safety, while also bringing thousands of new jobs and a major investment to our state,” said Governor Quinn.

Located in Carroll County, Thomson Correctional Center was constructed eight years ago but has remained virtually vacant due to lack of funding. As a result, the Village of Thomson continues to experience tough economic conditions and a high unemployment rate.

“Today’s announcement comes at a time when unemployment in Carroll County and the surrounding area remains high and the state-of-the-art correctional center continues to sit vastly underutilized,” Senator Durbin said. “A decision by the White House to choose Thomson would result in nothing short of a major economic impact on the region. With up to 3,000 jobs on the line, this could be the biggest jobs creator in northwest Illinois since I’ve held elected office.”

Recently, Thomson Village President Jerry Hebeler contacted Governor Quinn to express the village’s willingness to consider “any and all alternatives” to open the prison and bring economic vitality back to the region. In his letter, he suggested asking if the federal government would be interested in using the facility.

Governor Quinn discussed the possibility with President Obama briefly during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

Afterward, Governor Quinn sent a November 12 letter to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, and Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, highlighting Thomson’s modern safety features and stating the prison could be of assistance to plans being formulated by the U.S. government “to move federal prisoners and to locate a limited number of detainees in the United States.”

Built on 146 acres, Thomson is a Level 1, adult male, maximum-security prison with 1,600 cells and eight housing units. The facility is enclosed by a 12-foot exterior fence and 15-foot interior fence, which includes a dual sided electric stun fence. Currently, the Illinois Department of Corrections is only using a very small portion of the facility, and there is no opening date in the foreseeable future for the main complex.

Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin requested the Administration do a preliminary economic impact analysis regarding the Federal Government’s potential acquisition and activation of the State correctional facility in Thomson.

Among the preliminary report’s findings:

Thousands of New Jobs: The analysis estimates that Federal operation of the facility would generate between 2,340 and 3,250 ongoing jobs. These would include both direct, well-paying Federal jobs at the facility, as well as indirect jobs in the surrounding region. These indirect jobs would result from the support services needed to operate the facility, as well as the increase in earnings for the local population. The analysis estimates that approximately half of these jobs would be hired locally, while the other half would go to personnel moving into the area.

Significant Reduction in Unemployment: The analysis predicts that unemployment would drop significantly. For example, the unemployment rate in Carroll County, where the facility is located, could be cut in half from its September 2009 level of 10.5%. Unemployment also would decline in surrounding counties, including Whiteside, Jo Daviess, Lee, and Rock Island Counties in Illinois, as well as Clinton and Jackson Counties in Iowa. Overall, the earnings of area residents could increase by as much as $223 million annually on an ongoing basis.

Direct and Indirect Economic Boost: The analysis predicts a large and immediate impact on the local economies surrounding the facility. For example, the operation of the facility would rely on local utilities, transportation and food services. A large share of the salaries from new employees would go toward the purchase of locally-provided goods and services, such as housing, retail goods, and health care. These indirect waves of economic activity would amplify the direct impacts of the facility.

Regional Economic Stimulus: The analysis estimates that the overall injection of funds into the local economy would be between $790 million and $1.09 billion over the first four years. This would result from the operation of the facility, construction expenditures, salaries, and visitors to the area. The economic impact is expected to be divided generally as follows:

Carroll County, Illinois 40%
Other Illinois Counties
(Whiteside, Jo Daviess, Lee, and Rock Island Counties)
Iowa Counties
(Clinton and Jackson Counties)

For more information on Thomson go to: http://www.idoc.state.il.us.

RAW TAPEGovernor announces Obama Administration looking into use of Thomson Correctional Center (Audio includes Governor Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin)


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