The next session of the Illinois General Assembly will be convening in January 2005. At this time I ask all individuals in northwestern Illinois to contact their local senator or representative and express your desire to see funding for the opening of the Thomson prison included in the next budget in the state of Illinois.

The Thomson prison is a level-one maximum-security prison, with occupancy of 3,200 prisoners (double-bunked). Currently the designed capacity of all Illinois' prisons and jails, according to the latest information from the Department of Corrections, is over 11,000 prisoners over capacity. Within the subcategory of level-one maximum-security prisons, there are 3,627 prisoners over capacity. Overall, this equates to a 32.6 percent level of overcrowding in our state's prisons and jails. Of the five operational level-one maximum-security prisons in our state, the average cost to house a prisoner is slightly more than $35,000 per inmate per year. The projected cost to house a prisoner per year at Thomson is $23,000. Of the five operational level-one maximum-security prisons in our state, two of them - Menard and Pontiac - were built in 1878 and 1871, respectively. The Joliet prison was built in 1925, and the Dwight prison was built in 1930. The Thomson prison is the most technologically advanced prison and the most efficient prison to operate in our system. However, it remains empty, now approaching four straight fiscal years, despite evidence of an overcrowding issue in our state, and evidence that suggests that it makes economic sense to open the prison versus the cost of operating other level-one maximum-security prisons in our state.

Currently at Joliet and Pontiac, each prison has between 1,267 and 1,577 additional prisoners at their facilities. These additional inmates could easily be housed at Thomson, potentially saving the state of Illinois $34 million over the average cost of the other level-one maximum-security prisons.

Please take time to communicate with Senator Jacobs and Representative Boland and let them know it is in their best interests to push for this funding. Also please contact Representative Jim Sacia, Representative Pat Verschoore, and Senator Todd Sieben. Though the prison is not in their districts, each of these men understands how important the opening of the Thomson prison could be on the entirety of northwestern Illinois, and with five individuals on the same page on this issue, we will stand a chance of getting the funds appropriated in the next budget in order to open the Thomson prison.

All statistical and demographic information contained within this letter is accessible at (

Dennis Ahern

Signs of the Times

Now that time and distance have given me a little perspective on the campaign season that was, I want to share a revealing anecdote. Three colleagues and I braved the cold, gray November 2 afternoon on Elmore and Kimberly, cheerfully waving "Vote November 2: Kerry, Edwards" signs. We were engaged in stoplight-inspired, driveby debates like "You don't have a business." (I have two.) When I asked "Do I have to?" the answer was "You can't have a business and vote that way." My question to him about how many of his workers can afford health care was lost in the roar of engines inspired by the green light. We were also greeted with honking horns, thumbs up, and thumbs down, along with the occasional church fan with President Bush's face on it. No problem. Yet, we were also greeted with "the finger," "f___ you," "f___ off," "You don't vote for a communist supporter," and the clever "Support our troops, you support terrorists" spouted by two very young, giggling, probably first-time voters. I hope as the rancor of the season subsides, we remember to add civility and real discourse into our political discourse. Our world depends on the outcome and the process.

James Culver Jr.
Essen, Germany

Gluba Thanks Supporters

I want to thank the voters for their kindness and generosity they showed during my campaign to represent them in Congress.

I decided to run for Congress because I felt that our government should be an instrument of peace, an instrument of hope, and an instrument to promote the dignity and worth of every human being. I spent the last year traveling 50,000 miles around the 12 counties in the First District of Iowa, hearing the concerns of voters.

I spoke with unemployed workers in Monticello about the need to export American products, not outsource American jobs. I spoke with families in Davenport who are unable to afford health-care coverage, and I said they have a right to have the same health care as members of Congress, including coverage for mental illness. I met with people in Waverly who are concerned about protecting our environment. I talked with parents and educators in Waterloo about the shortcomings of No Child Left Behind, and I visited with seniors in Dubuque about the need for real prescription-drug reform.

Our campaign was one to give people hope with a vision of a better tomorrow.

I hope that you have been proud of the campaign we have run. I am reminded of words Ted Kennedy spoke to the Democratic convention in 1980: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Bill Gluba

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