* As we’ve already discussed, Congressman Bobby Schilling claims there is $75 million in the federal Bureau of Prisons budget that could be used to buy the Thomson prison from Illinois.
Schilling wants the state to lower its asking price from $165 million down to $75 million to make the deal happen. Republican Congressman Frank Wolf has held up the sale over fears that the Obama administration wants to house Gitmo terrorists in the facility, even though there’s a federal law against that. Schilling insists that the administration could tap into the $75 million without having to go through Wolf.
* Well, US Sen. Dick Durbin’s office contacted me today via e-mail to say that the $75 million figure is a figment of Schilling’s imagination…
We checked in with the Bureau of Prisons and they again made clear that there is no funding currently in their budget that amounts to $75 million which would not need the approval of both House and Senate appropriators in order to be used for the purchase of Thomson prison. So the funding that has been cited by Congressman Schilling’s office would need the approval of Congressman Wolf who, up to this point, has not indicated that price is a problem.
If Durbin is right, then Schilling’s gonna get hammered by his local media… again.
* Durbin’s office also released the text of a letter he sent to Congressman Wolf…
Dear Congressman Wolf:
Today, in your capacity as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, you again received a reprogramming request from the Department of Justice for federal funding to purchase the Thomson Correctional Center in Carroll County, Illinois, from the State of Illinois. I write in strong support of that request and to urge you to approve this important reprogramming as soon as possible.
We are both aware of the history of this project. Despite your rejection of a similar reprogramming request in May 2011, I believe a close examination of today’s reprogramming will demonstrate the issues that were of concern to you more than a year ago have been addressed by Administration officials, including funding sources.
In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has clearly restated that they will not seek to transfer any detainees from U.S. facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Thomson. As you know, current federal law prohibits these transfers. In addition, Attorney General Holder committed, under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 12, 2012, that no detainee transfers would take place to Thomson no matter the state of the law.
The Department of Justice, working with the Office of Management and Budget, has identified existing funds that could be used for the purchase of Thomson and that this reprogramming is acceptable to your Senate counterpart, Senator Barbara Mikulski.
Senator Mark Kirk and I have repeatedly pointed out that the sale of the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government enjoys broad-based local and state support. It will lead to significant economic development in the region, including more than 1,100 jobs. The Bureau of Prisons believes that the acquisition of Thomson will help alleviate the safety problems associated with serious federal prison overcrowding, currently running higher than 50 percent over rated capacity, and especially help increase the safety of the system’s prison guards.
I hope you will act promptly to approve this reprogramming request. I will work with you and the Illinois Congressional Delegation to open the Thomson Correctional Center as a federal maximum security prison in the near future.