by Kristina Rasmussen
The federal government just purchased Thomson prison in western Illinois, which had been sitting empty or under-utilized for years due to a lack of operating funds.
I wrote about this problem back in 2005:
state-of-the-art Thomson Correctional Center stands silent and empty in
the northwest corner of Illinois, even though the facility is capable
of housing 1,600 prisoners under maximum-security conditions. Finished
in 2001 at a cost to taxpayers of $140 million, the prison has yet to
house a single inmate. Thomson’s only current purpose is to serve as a
storage container for never-used building supplies from other canceled
prison projects, even as the Illinois corrections system suffers from a
30 percent overcrowding rate.
Given the regularity of reported
prison capacity shortages, it is flabbergasting to discover the extent
to which many prisons and jails are sitting unused across the nation.
Even more shocking is the exorbitant costs to beleaguered taxpayers
(including federal taxpayers) of these unused corrections facilities –
maintenance costs for the empty Thomson prison reach over $1.8 million
In any case, white-elephant prisons should not
be allowed to trample taxpayers underfoot any longer. Illinois residents
pay every day for the flushing of unused toilets in Thomson
Correctional Center to keep pipes from freezing. Surely we can find a
way to stop pouring taxpayer dollars down the empty prison drain.
Thomson was the result of a capital spending spree that didn't connect
the dots between funneling cash into government building projects and
having the money to actually operate and run those facilities. I wonder how many projects from the pork-filled capital bill that passed a few years ago will run into the same problems.
worth noting that the feds agreed to purchase the prison for $165
million, while it cost $140 million to build in 2001. Adjusted for
inflation, that selling price would have been $172 million.