THOMSON, Ill. (KWQC) – Thomson Prison inmates are starting to arrive on the property, and it’s a relief for some area residents.
After years of sitting empty, prison officials said minimum security inmates are on the property at a “satellite camp.” It’s a location near the main prison , and holds two-hundred inmates.
The minimum security inmates will work at the prison preparing it to officially open.
The prison will employ thousands, and locals said they are happy to see something finally happening at this prison.
A full staff hasn’t been hired yet, but the village is already seeing a change in the community.
Jodie Seefeldet works hard every day. She owns Bear’s Drive Inn. It sits right on 84 just miles downs the road from Thomson Prison.
“It’s been going good, it’s been going very well,” Seefeldet said.
Seefeldet bought Bear’s a little over a year ago. Some thought it was a business risk. Thomson has a population of less than 600. But Seefeldet said she’s never had trouble bringing in business.
“I think this place has just kind of built its own reputation,” she said. “I think if it wasn’t right off the highway there might be a problem.”
And now business is only getting better. She gets more food orders. Those coming from prison workers.
“We did actually have some (prison workers) call in today,”
And she’s even been able to hire some more help, giving some new local kids an outlet.
“I have gained employees from that,” Seefeldet said. “I hired some of them that have moved here.”
The Thomson Village President said this is a trend for the entire town.
“All the restaurants have been busy and the people that I’ve talked to who have businesses here in town have noticed a difference,” said Vicky Trager, village president.
She said all of this has been a long time coming, and it’s great to see the town thriving.
“It feels like finally we’ve turned a corner and we’re hoping that it continues to build up steam and things continue moving along,” she said. “And from what I understand it will.
And with developers looking to move on land, things for this small town are looking up.
“The mood has lifted and there’s a lot more optimism then there used to be,” Trager said.
This Tuesday the prison is holding a job fair. It will take place on prison grounds from noon to six. This is just another way to recruit new hires and continue moving things forward.
The village says they hope to see more correctional officers working and training in Thomson by the end of the year.
Thomson prison has had a long history in the area the once state-owned facility was finished in 2001. But it never fully opened because of budget issues.
The federal government bought the prison in 2012, but had to wait for federal funding to start activation.
Then last fall, the government hired a warden, and now Thomson has minimum security inmates at a “satellite camp” on the property.