* From the warden of the Thomson federal prison…
May 24, 2019
Dear Community Member,
The Thomson prison is not a new subject and to imply it has been a long journey is an understatement. State and federal governments have made large investments in this prison and I realize the local communities have matched these efforts.
The Administrative United States Penitentiary (AUSP) at Thomson currently employs nearly 400 staff, with a future full staffing complement of over 600. While a majority of our staff and their families are from the local area, a large number have transferred from other institutions and now reside in your communities. They are a diverse group with diverse needs and their presence has a compounding effect as salaries are redistributed throughout the local area, in housing, food, goods, services, and taxes.
As our staffing levels continue to grow, the demand for homes and other amenities also increase. Affordable and desirable housing along with good quality schools and day care centers determine where Bureau of Prisons’ staff reside. They need apartments, rental houses, starter homes, and larger homes for their expanding families. Unfortunately, for some, commuting a long distance is necessary, with some staff traveling as far north as Dubuque and south beyond the Quad Cities.
AUSP Thomson is now offering new Correctional Officers a sign-on bonus of 10% of their salary and after successfully completing one year of service; new staff will receive a one-time bonus of over $4,000. However, this may not be enough to entice staff to reside in the local community. Therefore, I humbly request your assistance in advocating for more housing development. Please do what you can to create conversations among community leadership and residential developers. I fear that without noticeable development, the lack of housing may become a determining factor against relocating to this area.
Thomson is a northwestern Illinois tiny town of 590 people. It had been the site of a state prison, but the state decided it didn’t need the facility and it was eventually unloaded on the feds.
* Chase Cavanaugh takes a look at the situation…
“It’s hard to believe we have no retail in Thomson and we have limited housing,” [Thomson Village President Vicky Trager] said. “The housing that we do have is mostly older, small, single family homes. We have some income-based multi-unit apartment buildings.”
Michelle Horst is a Human Resource Specialist for the Bureau of Prisons. She says this lack of amenities means employees commute an average of 30 miles to work.
She says most employees reside in the Illinois cities of Thomson, Savanna, Mount Carroll, Fulton, Morrision and the Sterling/Rock Falls area, as well as Clinton, Iowa. “However, we do have some employees that commute as far as 50-70 miles or more, including a significant number in the Quad Cities area,” she said. […]
Since the release of the warden’s letter, [prison spokesperson Nicole McDowell] says several communities have responded with commitments to new development.
“Outside of Thomson, Mt Carroll let us know that they’re doing a renovation that’s going to provide lots and lots of housing, and Clinton let us know that they are about to do another housing area like the ‘landing’ that they have that will also house a lot of staff,” she said. […]
For now, the Bureau of Prisons has designated Thomson a “hard to fill” institution, allowing staff to offer a variety of hiring and pension incentives. As for Thomson itself, Trager hopes the warden’s recent letter can get the word out about new job hires and attract future developers.