Thomson prison

The federal prison in Thomson, Ill., is no longer a designated quarantine location.

THOMSON, Ill. — For almost a month, concerns have grown about the federal prison in Thomson being used as a quarantine site for thousands of new inmates.

In late April, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, all Democrats, expressed their displeasure with the Bureau of Prisons. In a joint statement, the three said they were “disturbed” after learning inmates were being transferred to the Thomson prison “without appropriate preventative measures in place,” such as testing each transferred inmate for COVID-19.

Now after pushback from the lawmakers and the union, the Thomson prison is no longer a designated quarantine location and the inmates will be tested.

“After calling for COVID-19 testing for all newly admitted inmates prior to transfer, we are encouraged by USMS’s and BOP’s new policy,” they said via press release. “Testing every inmate and ensuring they are negative for COVID-19 before transferring them to quarantine sites is the right decision for inmates, staff, and local communities.”

In the release, the lawmakers said they urge the Bureau of Prisons to also test every inmate in BOP’s custody and confirm they are negative for the coronavirus prior to transferring them to another BOP facility, regardless of whether it is from a quarantine site or another BOP institution.

The Thomson prison was one of several locations across the nation that served as a designated quarantine location. The lawmakers said the safety and health of inmates and staff must be BOP’s top priority and that they are pleased with the decision. At the same time, they did highlight outside of this issue, stating the prison in Thomson still needs support in other areas.

“These changes in BOP’s policy are good news. However, we remain concerned by the ongoing staffing shortages affecting BOP institutions, including USP Thomson,” the lawmakers said. “We are committed to working with BOP to address the staffing shortages at USP Thomson and other facilities and once again call on BOP to prioritize hiring additional staff to meet the needs of their institutions, particularly during this crisis.”