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BOP Closes Violent Illinois Prison Unit

One of the deadliest federal prisons in the country, a high-security unit at Thomson penitentiary in Illinois, is slated to be closed by the federal Bureau of Prison after reports of abuse and violence, The Marshall Project reports. Last year, The Marshall Project and NPR found that the Illinois prison had five suspected homicides and two suspected suicides since 2019, as well as volatile conditions that bred violence among prisoners. A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said that they “recently identified significant concerns with respect to institutional culture and compliance with BOP policies” at Thomson, requiring “immediate corrective measures.” Officials would not comment on where the hundreds of people held in the Special Management Unit at Thomson were being transferred. Those housed in the general population and the minimum security camp will remain at the prison.


Men at Thomson have reported that guards abused them, including placing them in painful four-point restraints for hours or days at a time. Prompted by The Marshall Project and NPR’s reporting, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General launched an investigation into the deaths and alleged mistreatment. The special unit was originally housed at Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, a facility known for similarly high rates of violence among prisoners and staff shackling the people held there. It’s unclear whether the unit, which is meant to separate the most disruptive people in federal prison from the general population, will reopen elsewhere. Corrections officers at Thomson have been calling for the warden’s firing in recent months, pointing to a high rate of staff vacancies and sexual assaults on officers. Union officials say there are 100 empty positions at the prison, despite multiple job fairs and hiring bonuses.

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