The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons wants to begin hiring staff to run the Thomson prison facility in Illinois where the Obama administration plans to to hold Guantanamo Bay detainees, a top Justice Department official said Monday.
Even as the likelihood that Guantanamo Bay detainees will set foot in the facility dwindles, that appraisals of the property are underway and the Bureau of Prisons is committed to acquiring the facility this year, Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich wrote in a letter to members of the Illinois congressional delegation.
“BOP plans to make certain modifications to the facility and hire and train a full complement of staff while the Defense Department continues to work with Congress to obtain authorization and funding for a portion of the Thomson facility,” Weich wrote in the letter dated June 21.
Bureau of Prisons Chief Harley Lappin had told the delegation that the Obama administration is moving forward with the plans. The text of the letter was posted online by the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
Weich wrote that appraisals of the property are underway and the representatives from the bureau have met with local officials and prospective job applicants. Bureau of Prisons officials plan to attend events at Illinois community colleges over the coming weeks where they will take job applications and run resume workshops, Weich told the members of Congress.
House lawmakers recently took steps to block the use of federal funds for the modification of Thomson, but that does not prohibit the use of federal funding to purchase the location.
The text of the letter is embedded below.
June 21, 2010
The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Donald A. Manzullo
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Senator Durbin and Congressman Manzullo:
We understand that Harley Lappin, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), recently briefed both of you and your staffs on the significant progress being made by BOP and the State of Illinois in their efforts to complete multiple steps required at the federal and state levels in order to purchase the Thomson Correctional Center. This letter reaffirms the Administration’s commitment to acquiring the facility this year and provides additional details about measures that have been taken to date and those that will be taken in the coming months. We are also forwarding a copy of this letter to Governor Quinn in light of the active, ongoing efforts of Illinois state officials on this issue.
As Director Lappin stated in his briefings to you, multiple appraisals of the facility by the federal government and the state are in progress. In addition, officials from BOP’s Capacity Planning, Facility Activation, and Site Selection Office and BOP’s North Central Regional Office have been meeting with local officials and prospective job applicants throughout the region to discuss staffing needs for operating the institution. These include meetings in Fulton, Illinois on April 21, Moline, Illinois on May 4, Freeport, Illinois on May 5, and Davenport, Iowa on May 6. Additional meetings are planned this month for application and resume workshops at Sauk Valley Community College and Black Hawk Community College.
In response to Congressman Manzullo’s request on May 24, 2010, that BOP “separate the GITMO portion of the Thomson plan and proceed with the full utilization of the Thomson Correctional Facility as a stand-alone federal prison,” we understand that Director Lappin explained that BOP will have access to the entire facility after it is acquired. BOP plans to make certain modifications to the facility and hire and train a full complement of staff while the Defense Department continues to work with Congress to obtain authorization and funding for a portion of the Thomson facility.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with communities that surround BOP institutions is an important part of our operations. Thank you for your ongoing support, and we look forward to continuing to discuss with you our plans for activating and operating the facility. Please do not hesitate to contact this office if we may be of further assistance with this or any other matter.
Assistant Attorney General
cc: The Honorable Pat Quinn
Governor of the State of Illinois