THOMPSON, Illinois -- Nearly two decades after construction was completed, the federal prison is still struggling to attract suitable employees from surrounding communities.
After touring the facility on Tuesday, October 8th, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, (D) Illinois, joined Senators Charles Grassley, (R) Iowa, and Richard Durbin, (D) Illinois, to host a press conference on the prison's condition.
Today, the federal prison houses 750 inmates and has 400 staff members. Representative Bustos said they hope to grow the facility to 40 staff by the end of 2019 and more than 100 staff by the end of 2020 -- bringing the total to 1,000 inmates and 600 staff.
To support the projected staffing, a hiring event is being held on Wednesday, October 9th at the Sterling Public Library. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. At the event, potential hires can meet with professionals to discuss benefits and the online application process.
"The village of Thompson stood by for 10 years. Waiting and waiting and waiting," Senator Durbin said. "You go back to the year 2000, the state of Illinois builds this prison and says to Thompson and this section of Illinois ‘This is going to be a major part of your future’ and then the prison was never opened."
Senator Durbin continued by saying the prison sat practically empty for more than a decade. All legislators agree that more needs to be done in order to attract potential employees.
"We're looking for places for them to live," Senator Durbin said, calling for developers to consider the area. "They need apartments, they need condos, they need homes."
"This is a huge economic driver," Representative Cheri Bustos said. "Not just for Carroll County but for the surrounding counties as well."
Rep. Bustos said the jobs offer competitive pay with benefits and said the community is safe with a "great cost of living."
Senator Grassley said he joined the press briefing because more needs to be done on a bi-state, bi-partisan basis.
"You find no difference between Republicans and Democrats. You find no difference between the House and the Senate," Grassley said. "What supports us is that the business and unions and civic leaders on both sides of the river work together on this project."
Senator Durbin also mentioned a former school building is being converted into a daycare center, something that is "needed by the men and women who work (at the prison)."
At Wednesday's hiring event, same day job offers will be given to qualifying Veterans with a resume and DD214.