“Thomson prison would not only alleviate overcrowding of our prison system, but it would also be an economic shot in the arm to a region that continues to struggle with high unemployment,” Bustos said. “Now that the President has signaled his support for Thomson, it is time for Congress to appropriate the funds necessary to make sure the opening of Thomson prison remains on track.”
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, D-Iowa, was not as enthusiastic about the sale.
“There are brand-new prisons sitting idle, so I’d need the rationale before supporting additional spending,” Grassley said.
According to Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross, two employees started working at the prison earlier this month.
The prison was constructed for $140 million in 2001 by the state of Illinois to house the most severe criminal offenders. However, the majority of the prison was never occupied and sat vacant for many years due to the state’s lack of funds to operate it. Once federal officials began discussing the 1,600-bed facility, Republican lawmakers blocked the sale over concerns that the prison would house suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay.