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First job openings at long-awaited prison

15 jobs posted; agency won’t say when it will hire

STERLING – The federal government has taken a big step toward opening the federal prison in Thomson, posting advertisements for 15 positions at the facility.

Compared with the area’s median household income, the jobs pay well.

The federal Bureau of Prisons is awaiting Congress’ approval of a spending plan for the opening of Thomson Correctional Center, which is in the small Carroll County village along the Mississippi River.

The bureau’s job search started March 26 and will end April 16.

Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said the facility’s renovations have not begun.

“I can’t speculate on when we will hire,” he said. “I’m really limited on what I can say until the spending plan is approved.”

In Sterling and Dixon, the median household income is about $40,000; in Rock Falls, it’s a few thousand less.

Those incomes are lower than the salary ranges for all of the jobs advertised at Thomson. A computer specialist would get anywhere from $60,000 to $78,000, while a tool room officer would be paid between $46,000 to $59,000. Many of the positions appear to be managerial.

In January, Congress approved $90 million for prison buildings and facilities, money that could pay for opening new lockups. The Bureau of Prisons was required to report back to Congress in 30 days with a spending plan, which the agency did.

The bureau said it wanted to spend $54 million for the first phase of activating Thomson, with $10 million going toward renovations.

Both Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, have pushed for the prison’s opening. In a statement Friday, Durbin said he would work to make sure President Barack Obama’s administration remained committed to opening the prison.

Bustos, whose 17th Congressional District includes Thomson, called the first job postings “great news.”

“Communities across our region of Illinois have spent over a decade thirsting for today’s great news,” she said in a news release. “The opening of Thomson prison will not only alleviate overcrowding of our prison system, but it will create over a thousand local jobs and be an economic shot in the arm to a region that continues to struggle with high unemployment.”

More than a dozen years ago, the state built the 1,600-cell maximum-security prison in Thomson, but couldn’t afford to run it.

The federal government bought it in 2012. When it opens, it is expected to employ 1,100 people and have a regional impact that extends to Whiteside, Lee and Ogle counties.

The jobs

The jobs and annual salary ranges being offered at the Bureau of Prisons' Thomson facility, which are online at

• Budget and accounting officer, $57,982-$90,344

• Computer specialist, $59,925-$77,912

• Correctional program officer, $69,497-$90,344

• Captain, $82,642-$107,434

• Tool room officer, $48,282-$59,299

• Correctional officer, $46,282-$59,299

• Teacher supervisor, $82,642-$107,434

• Safety and occupational health manager, $82,642-$107,434

• Human resources officer, $82,642-$107,434

• Computer services manager, $82,642-$107,434

• Budget analyst, $49,520-$63,894

• Correctional program specialist, $57,982-$75,376

• Procurement and property specialist, $44,403-$63,894

• Contract specialist, $44,403-$63,894

• Supervisory food services specialist, $82,642-$107,434

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