- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

THOMSON, Ill. (AP) - The federal Bureau of Prisons has allocated nearly $54 million to begin opening the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois, officials said.

About $10 million will be used to renovate the maximum-security penitentiary, which was a state prison that never fully opened because of budget constraints. The additional $43.7 million will be used for staffing and equipment.

“This is the news we’ve been waiting for,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said a in statement. “The funding that the Bureau of Prisons reported to Congress … is a significant investment in the economic future of northern Illinois.”

Illinois built Thomson prison in 2001, but budget troubles kept it from fully opening. Its 1,600 cells housed fewer than 200 inmates before the facility was closed in preparation for a sale. The last inmates were moved out in 2010.

The federal government bought it for $165 million in 2012.

When the prison opens as a federal facility, it is expected to employ 1,100 people and have an economic impact on Whiteside, Lee and Ogle counties.

It is expected to take two years before the prison is fully operational. The project will cost about $25 million for upgrades and renovations and about $170 million for equipment and staffing.

Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels has said Thomson is needed to reduce overcrowding at high-security federal prisons.