- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

THOMSON, Ill. (AP) - Hundreds of applicants, some from as far as Kentucky and Minnesota, have come to northeastern Illinois to attend a three-day hiring fair at Thompson’s long-await federal prison.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons informational hiring fair runs through Thursday. Within the first six hours, nearly 300 job seekers entered the doors of the Thomson Correctional Center, according to Beth Pottios, the bureau’s regional public information officer.

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

After the sale was held up for nearly three years the federal government bought it for $165 million in 2012. Congress in January approved $90 million for the prison. The prisons bureau now awaits congressional approval of its plan for the money, The (Sterling) Daily Gazette (https://bit.ly/1tdUZTG ) reported. Fully opening the facility is expected to take three years.

More than 1,000 jobs will be brought to the Thomson area through the first phase of hiring. Until then, 200 minimum-security inmates will help perform routine tasks, such as landscaping and food service.

Bradley Yates, an applicant from Kentucky, traveled more than eight hours to the Mississippi River town to attend the job fair with his wife and 14-month-old daughter. He will likely apply to be a correctional officer. Yates has tried to apply for several positions at the Lexington prison, but hasn’t had any success due to high competition.

“Everybody wants to work there,” he said. “Transfers usually get the first spot, and then veterans usually take the rest. So this is the best chance.”

If the Thomson prison hires Yates, his wife will request a transfer from Lexington so they can move to Illinois, she said.

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Information from: The Daily Gazette, https://www.saukvalley.com

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