September 17, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin, Bustos Announce Approval of Retention Bonus for USP Thomson to Address Staffing Shortage

OPM’s approval of the bonus comes after Duckworth, Durbin, and Bustos’ advocacy on behalf of USP Thomson for more than a year


[SPRINGFIELD, IL] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) today announced that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has approved a 25 percent retention bonus for nearly all staff at USP Thomson that the lawmakers have been advocating for since August 2020. The approval comes amid an understaffing crisis at the facility worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and additional strain placed on current staff to address public health concerns and improve conditions.

“Ongoing vacancies at USP Thomson make it more difficult for overworked staff to carry out their duties—presenting significant risk to staff, inmates and the surrounding community,” Duckworth said. “I’m glad the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has approved our request for a 25 percent retention bonus at Thomson, which will provide current employees a much-deserved increase in pay and help improve staff retention and overall safety at the prison.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, my colleagues and I have worked alongside USP Thomson to advocate for clearer guidance and more autonomy from OPM to remedy the intense understaffing concerns the facility is facing,” said Durbin. “After more than a year of urging OPM, I’m glad to see the Biden administration heed our request for the betterment of the public health and safety of inmates and staff at USP Thomson. Today’s announcement is welcome news, and I urge OPM and BOP to now take additional actions to address the staffing crisis across Illinois and the nation.”

“Today’s announcement will go a long way toward recognizing Thomson’s staff for their hard work, help keep staff on site and help attract additional staff to make Thomson a safer, more secure location,” said Bustos. “I’ve been proud to be at the forefront of these efforts with Senators Duckworth and Durbin. Initiatives like this help strengthen the workforce, ensure the facility can compete with others in the region and support the surrounding community’s economy. I thank my colleagues for their partnership on this issue and will continue to work alongside them to put forward initiatives to recruit and retain staff.”

“We started this fight for 25% retention and direct hire almost two years ago, and Rep Bustos, Sen Duckworth, and Durbin have stood beside the workers at USP Thomson and fought and won 25% retention, 25% recruitment, and 25% relocation, and direct hire for USP Thomson,” said Jon Zumkehr, President of Local 4070 of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Following up from their original letter from August 2020, the lawmakers sent a second letter in April to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Michael Carvajal and Acting Director of OPM Kathleen McGettigan urging the administrators to support USP Thomson’s request for the retention bonus. Last month, USP Thomson was granted Direct Hire Authority by OPM, allowing the facility to have more autonomy over staffing decisions and adequately equipping the facility. Duckworth, Durbin, and Bustos have also pushed for BOP and OPM to consider USP Thomson for Chicago area locality pay to improve the salaries of facility employees.