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THOMSON, Ill. — A 24-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Prisons will be the first warden when the long-vacant Thomson Correctional Center opens as a federal prison, officials announced Monday.

Donald Hudson, most recently the warden of the Federal Correctional Institute in Schuylkill, Pa., will oversee renovations, the hiring of staff, community outreach and prison operations.

Hudson began his career with the Bureau of Prisons as a correctional officer at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., during 1990. He also has worked at federal facilities in Georgia, Florida and Marion, Ill.

Hudson said Monday that he is “ecstatic” to be back in the Midwest.

“It’s good for me, and it’s good for my family,” he said.

Federal and local officials made the announcment Monday afternoon during a news conference at the prison, located about 40 miles north of the Quad-Cities.

“This has been a long, long journey, but despite some early controversy and a little displaced opposition here and there, we’ve made dramatic progress in getting this facility up, working and serving the taxpayers,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during the nearly 40-minute news conference.

Thomson, built as a state prison facility in 2001, will house 1,900 maximum-security inmates and 200 minimum-security inmates.

Durbin said that opening the prison will create 1,100 jobs and bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the region.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said the prison also will help ease “severe” overcrowding in the federal system. 

Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuel said he expects 300 staffers to be hired during the first phase of the process. Current employees from other prisons will be on hand to help train the new staff, he said.

About 200 minimum-security inmates will be transferred to handle landscaping, food services and other work to get the prison activated, Samuels said.

Maximum-security inmates will be transferred in gradually until the prison is fully activated, he said. Transfer of those inmates could happen by the end of 2015, he added.

“The activation of a federal facility is a multi-year process,” he said. “It is critical for the safety of our staff, the public and the inmates.”

Full activation of the prison will cost $25 million for upgrades and renovations and $170 million for equipment and staffing, Durbin said.

The Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons has committed $53.7 million for activation of the 1,600-bed, 146-acre prison. The funding was approved by Congress in January as part of the omnibus appropriations bill.

Of that funding, $10 million is designated for renovation, and $43.7 million will be used for staffing, equipment purchases and upgrades.

“When Congress concludes its work this year, we hope Thomson will have the funding predictability and complete activation and set a firm date for opening the federal maximum-security prison,” Durbin said.

Hudson said he doesn’t think the hiring process for Thomson will be “real long.”

“It’s all going to be myself relocating first and getting some of the other staff set up before we can start doing mass interviews,” he said. “I think people are going to start noticing that the traffic in town is going to start to pick up relatively quickly.”

A large crowd of state and local officials, members of law enforcement and community residents attended Monday's announcement.

Thomson Village President Vicky Trager said the village is celebrating its 150th anniversary next year.

“While that’s important for us to recognize our past, we want everyone at the Bureau of Prisons to know that we consider the bureau to be a part of Thomson’s future,” she told the audience.

Bev Bailey of Fulton, a manager at the Casey’s General Store in Thomson, went to the prison to learn more about the activation of the facility.

She said the prison will be a “great thing” for the Thomson community when it finally opens.

“It is frustrating because you have so many people that started businesses in Thomson because they thought the prison was going to open years ago,” she said.

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