After sitting empty for nearly 13 years, Thomson Prison finally has a warden.
Monday, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, visted Thomson, Illinois, to announce the hiring of warden Donald Hudson.
Hudson has worked for the Bureau of Prisons since 1990, and will now be in charge of overseeing renovations, hiring staff, and opening the long-dormant prison.
Hudson said his first action will be developing a core staff that will hire and train nearly 300 people for phase one of the prison's activation. While the majority of the staff will be correctional officers, Thomson Prison will also employ mental health workers, doctors and nurses, educators and religious services staff.
Some staff will be transferred from other places in the Bureau of Prisons, but Hudson said he believes many jobs will be filled with local workers.
"I'm pretty confident. I know just for the sheer time the area's been waiting for it, I think a lot of people have been preparing, just waiting. I think that day's going to come very soon now," said Hudson.
The new warden's second focus will be on making needed upgrades to the prison's physical infrastructure prior to receiving inmates. The full activation of Thomson Prison is expected to take two years and require around $25 million for upgrades and renovations, plus another $170 million for equipment and staffing.
In March, the BOP committed $53.7 million in funding to Thomson Prison's activation. Monday, Sen. Durbin also announced that the Senate's 2015 appropriations bill, which is currently being discussed in Washington, includes an additional $58 million for Thomson.
"You're definitely going to see a lot more activity here at the facility in the weeks, months and years ahead. We expect to have minimum security inmates at the facility in the coming months to help with work detail," said BOP Director Samuels.
Those inmates will help with a lot of the prep work, doing things like landscaping and food service, before some high-security inmates start arriving late next year.
All of this is welcome news to Thomson Village President Vicky Trager, who has waited to see the prison filled since it was built in 2001.
"It feels great. As I said, it can't happen soon enough. We've been waiting a long time, and every step forward is cause for celebration. Today seems less like a step and more like a leap, so we're very excited," said Trager.
When fully activated, the prison is expected to house 2,100 inmates and create 1,100 jobs.
Open positions will be posted on www.usajobs.gov.
Job seekers can also contact the BOP's North Central Region human resources department for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.