Our nation's flag endures though shamefully treated
The shredded American flag can no longer wave but flutters in fits and starts, bound to the expensive aluminum pole in front of the administrative entrance. Against the leaden sky this silent casualty of a nation's deepening confusion clings bravely to a neglected lanyard, abandoned on a bloody political battlefield by uncaring commanders eager to be off to their next conquest. Weak against the steel-gray heavens, it twists feebly, once proud threads stretching and tortured, hanging from its last grommet steadfastly unto death. How many days of rain, snow, and merciless sun have beaten upon it, and how many frigid nights has it shivered in dark and silent solitude, guardian of a proud heritage trodden upon by uncaring feet? Low clouds slithered across the afternoon sky, and we pressed closer to the outer perimeter fence crowned with glittering razor wire. A dozen feet away the second fence, humming and snapping with unknown voltages, stood in truculent defiance against both entry and exit.
In the course of other business, we chanced upon the Thomson Correctional Center just outside the charming rural community of Thomson Illinois. One half mile down the road we stopped in at Mr. Z's restaurant and lounge (which we heartily recommend for the excellent food - although they could not accommodate our request for grits). The pleasant and very polite waitress brushed back her brown hair, a Bic pen poised above the order pad. "We thought it would surely be open by now," she said pensively," but it just sits there. They had some water pipes freeze and break one winter". A shrug of her shoulders and the conversation was over. So many stories swirled around the facility that we decided to circumnavigate the wire and feel the spirit of the place. Was it true, we wondered, that one one man actually worked inside the vast facility, appearing each morning to unlock and enter the gate and office in the nearby auxiliary building, sitting at nameless tasks all day, then leaving for home locking the gate behind? Was it true, we wondered, that the lone occupant of this tomb-like massif was the warden? Was this really the place, we wondered, that was funded by the State of Illinois sufficient to construct but not to operate? Our brief tale is like a poorly written fable, words pouring forth from a heart wounded as we behold accelerating decay that is but a symptom of something more profoundly rotten.
We are simple men and cannot understand how the judgement of our countrymen has gone so far awry. Where will the sum of these errors lead us? How can our nation continue when the its guides are so blind? How many have been harmed by this ongoing disaster? We have opinions but surely many questions remain for those who wield power and can answer. Who is responsible for this and what did they have in mind?
We considered trying to retrieve the ragged flag, but possessed neither the lanyard key, nor authority (what a shame it would have been to be arrested trying to give the Flag an honorable burial). We can only ask that some good soul take pity on this symbol of our once virtuous nation and reverently lower the brave flag. Perhaps a nearby Boy Scouts Of America troop would do so with the honor that is due the symbol of our great nation. Confusion is upon our land, and many swords are now unsheathed, seeking our blood, and in our present weakness how can we prevail?
Will the last American out please remember to bring the flag?
Administration entrance and visitor reception - where the light is on in only one location, but no one is home
From Department of Justice: BOP anticipates finalizing construction of FCI Berlin, NH, a medium security federal correctional institution, and begin the activation process to add 1,280 more
beds to rated capacity. In addition, the BOP plans to purchase and renovate a state prison in Thomson, IL. The facility will be activated as a U.S. Penitentiary. USP Thomson, IL will add approximately 1,600 additional high security beds. Within the Salaries and Expenses account, BOP is working to expand reentry programs in support of the Second Chance Act.
From McHenry County Blog: Looks as if McHenry County Blog wasn’t the only one thinking Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s attempt to blackmail a Virginia Republican congressman who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee that controls the U.S. prison system budget was a tad too much.
Outside the wire - not far from the unfriendly buzz of the electric interior fence
From Chicago CBS: As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports, the state-of-the-art prison was built in 2001 and has 1,600 beds, but has sat empty since then because the state could not afford to open and staff it.
From Aledo Times: "Back in April, our campaign unveiled a proposal to stop the sale and finally open Thomson Prison," Albracht said. "Illinois should lease half of the prison to house out-of-state prisoners to earn revenue, but the other half should absolutely be filled with inmates from our overcrowded state prisons. Prison overcrowding, good jobs, and staff safety are but a few of the issues that opening Thomson Prison would address. This will be one of my top five priorities as Senator."
From Chicagoist: According to Illinois Statehouse News, the sale price is about $55 million less than its appraised value. Sen. Jacobs pointed out that Illinois now has “$165 million of cuts we don't have to make.” State Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica) echoed Jacob's sentiment about jobs the prison would bring to the area, saying “"Let’s get it open. Let’s put people to work. Let’s bring the financial economic impact to our community.”
From afar the darkenss is complete - the rest is silence