Sequester could impact opening of Thomson Correctional Center


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Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013, 8:53 pm
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By Eric Timmons etimmons@qconline.com
The automatic cutbacks in federal spending due to take effect Friday could create another hurdle on the path to opening Thomson Correctional Center as a federal prison.

Purchased by the federal government from Illinois for $165 million last year, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is waiting for money to both upgrade the prison and hire around 1,100 staff.

There are four other federal prisons ahead of Thomson in the queue that also are ready to open but are waiting for activation funding.

According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, funding to open two of the prisons, in Mississippi and West Virginia, would be cancelled if the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration are implemented.

The cutbacks also would slow plans to open the prisons in New Hampshire and Alabama, Mr. Holder said in a letter sent to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Sen. Mikulski chairs the Senate committee on appropriations.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said there likely would be a domino effect on the proposal to open Thomson as a federal prison if sequestration goes into effect.

"It's no secret that under sequestration, it will be extremely difficult to find new funding for projects across the federal government, including the activation of Thomson prison," said Sen. Durbin's spokeswoman Christina Mulka.

House Republicans and President Obama have been unable to reach a compromise to avoid $85 billion in across the board cutbacks that are due to start March 1.

The cutbacks were created inthe debt limit deal that waspassed by Congress in August 2011.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has questioned the wisdom of the decision to purchase Thomson with unappropriated money from a federal asset forfeiture fund.

In a letter to Mr. Holder published this week, Sen. Grassley said buying Thomson had prevented at least one of the other federal prisons waiting for activation funds from opening.

"Instead, the department now faces sequester holding four potentially operational prisons, and a fifth, Thomson, that requires tens of millions of dollars in renovations," Sen. Grassley wrote.

The decision to purchase Thomson was made in 2009 but met with Republican opposition because of a plan that has since been abandoned to use the prison to house Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Sen. Durbin and other supporters are hoping that President Obama will include funding to open Thomson in his next budget request.

In the meantime, a series of seminars are planned to educate the region about the employment and business opportunities the prison could create, said Cathi Lichter, an activation coordinator with the Bureau of Prisons.





















 



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  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.




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