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Feds to buy Ill. maximum-security prison

Oct. 2, 2012 at 8:51 PM

THOMSON, Ill., Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin announced the underused but state-of-the-art Thomson Correctional Center will be sold to the U.S. government.

The U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday filed documents in U.S. District Court in Illinois to buy the maximum-security prison for $165 million, the governor's office said in a release.

"This is excellent news that will create more than 1,100 jobs in northwestern Illinois and provide relief to taxpayers across the state who will no longer be forced to pay for an empty, unnecessary facility," Quinn said. "I want to thank President Obama and Senator Durbin for their strong support throughout this process. We look forward to Thomson being a fully operational facility that will drive major economic growth in the region in the near future."

The governor said more than $200 million in annual local investment will be realized once the facility is fully operational.

"After facing a political standoff in the House of Representatives, I went directly to the president and asked him to take this action, Durbin, D-Ill., said. "The president knows the Quad Cities and the critical need for good-paying jobs in this part of the state. I want to thank ... [village President Jerry] Hebeler and the people of Thomson. This was his idea and they've patiently waited for over a decade for this day to come."

The 146-acre, 1,600-bed Thomson facility, located just outside the village of 600 people, was built by Illinois in 2001 to house the most severe criminal offenders, but the bulk of the prison was never occupied and remains vacant. It is enclosed by a 12-foot exterior fence and a 15-foot dual-sided electric stun interior fence.

It once was considered a possible location to house terror suspects now held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but that is no longer an option.

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