gregory_a_k

“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
gregory_a_k » Posts for tag 'gregory koger'

Winter Solstice 2017 – Solve et Coagula

Winter Solstice 2017 – Transitions

New Website – gregory-a-k.com

Asura

This website has served me well for the last 10 years or since being released directly out of a cell in a prison which I had spent the previous 6+ years in solitary confinement. Could never have possibly guessed the firestorm I was about walk into, but I’ve made it through thus far – and reveled in the flames…

Gregory Koger in Ferguson, MO - August 13, 2014. Photo by Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Gregory Koger in Ferguson, MO – August 13, 2014. Photo by Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Pontiac prison protest in solidarity with the brothers on hunger strike inside - Brian Nelson, Mark Clements, Gregory Koger

September 2014 – Pontiac, IL prison protest in solidarity with the brothers on hunger strike inside – Brian Nelson, Mark Clements, Gregory Koger

All things in life ebb and flow, grow and die to make room for something new to begin. I’ve killed my old self to be reborn anew at least several distinct times I recall.

Baphomet

Anyhow, some really weird shit has been going on, some long-time alleged “friends” and “comrades” have just come out of nowhere on straight bitch shit & gossiping stool pigeon weirdo shit… 

But that’s cool, that’s great, in fact. I just try to keep it real. I’m not perfect, I deal with often-incapacitating PTSD every day – if not days on end. Sometimes I do a tremendous amount of shit in one day, or week, or month. Sometimes I barely survive for days or weeks or months at a time.

One thing I’ll never do is talk shit about my friends – or frankly anyone – “behind their back.” Anything I say to anyone I will say to the face of anyone involved who may not be present at the time. I will never voluntarily say shit at all to the police for any reason. Not talking about that. But if I have something to say, its usually something very openly known.

"Free 'em all!" - Occupy4prisoners Chicago formerly incarcerated: (from left) Gregory Koger, Fred Hampton, Jr., Dickey Gaines, and Darby Tillis. Photo courtesy FJJ.

“Free ’em all!” – Occupy4Prisoners February 2012 Chicago formerly incarcerated: (from left) Gregory Koger, Fred Hampton, Jr., Dickey Gaines, and Darby Tillis. Photo courtesy FJJ.

Gregory West Side October 2015Also, as much as I’d like to have a “romantic” relationship, I can’t force any person to like me and never would if I could. I have had and will have enough difficulties in such a relationship because I grew up in prison, I grew up in solitary confinement. Before I went to prison I grew up in a “family” environment where I was extremely isolated and beaten on pretty much a daily basis by people who called themselves my “parents.” I was almost nonverbal with people I didn’t know. I hated having to talk to people I didn’t know. I failed a speech class in high school because I just categorically refused to speak in front of the class…


 

Bottom line: this website has reached the end of its life. It will remain online as is, unless some security matter or something requires me to eliminate it partially or entirely.

There are a few people who have somewhat unjustly been caught in the middle of larger contradictions who don’t quite understand what is going on, and I apologize for not being able to explain things in more detail. Frankly, in a few areas, I don’t completely understand myself, or only vaguely have some glimpse at understanding. Perhaps someday I will be able to let you know more. But for the most part, people know where they are at with me and why. People know who has been with me and who has not. People know who was standing up and who wasn’t.

And I was happy to do every other thing possible than deal with my own shit. Sure, I tried to work on it here and there. Made no secret of it. But whenever you have a wounded creature, you have predators and parasites who thrive off of those tragic souls. And just to make it clear, there are no “treatments” for the PTSD which arises from the long-term torture in solitary confinement I’ve lived through – and not just “survived” through 7.5 years in different forms of solitary confinement and/or administrative or disciplinary segregation, and grew up under those conditions. 

Art - 14th Major Trump Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot

 

Once more of the chess pieces are moved into place, I’ll catch you on the other side…

Head Memorial BBQ Brian GregoryHead Memorial Brian Gregory

gregory_a_k, Five Mualimm-ak, Silvia Mendez, Juan Mendez - UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Brian Nelson

Washington, D.C. September 2016: gregory_a_k, Five Mualimm-ak, Silvia Mendez, Juan Mendez – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Brian Nelson

 

Jon Dambacher, Brian Nelson, Five Mualimm-ak, gregory_a_k

Washington, D.C. September 2016: Jon Dambacher, Brian Nelson, Five Mualimm-ak, gregory_a_k

 

Cook County Jail Protest October 2014: Hannibal Salim Ali, gregory_a_k, Bill Ayers Photo: FJJ

Cook County Jail Protest October 2014: Hannibal Salim Ali, gregory_a_k, Bill Ayers Photo: FJJ

 

October 2014 protest Chicago Photo: FJJ

October 2014 protest Chicago Photo: FJJ

 

National Lawyers Guild September 2014 National Conference Panel on Stopping Mass Incarceration: Hannibal Gregory

National Lawyers Guild September 2014 National Conference Panel on Stopping Mass Incarceration: Hannibal Gregory

 

"Battlefield USA: Riots in Ferguson Hit Fever Pitch" Inside Edition August 2014

“Battlefield USA: Riots in Ferguson Hit Fever Pitch” Inside Edition August 2014

Saint Louis Post Dispatch 8-14-14

GK Ferguson newspaper cover

 

New Website – gregory-a-k.com

 

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Illinois’ 2017 Bill to Drastically Reduce Solitary Confinement Killed by Illinois Sheriffs Association Demanding to Continue Using the Torture Practice on the Mentally Ill

I was forwarded an email earlier this afternoon which purports to examine the “highlights” of 2017 legislation nationwide aimed at solitary confinement “reform.” Illinois was curiously missing from the list. Interesting story that I’ll lay out for your perusal to see how close to a lowlight the Illinois example is.

Condensing a lot of prefatory and background matters for brevity, for the last couple legislative sessions a bill to drastically limit solitary confinement in Illinois has been brought forward by Rep. LaShawn Ford, in consultation with a number of groups opposing solitary and mass incarceration more broadly.

One of the initial versions of said bill was primarily conceived and set in motion by a group in Illinois with next to zero connection to those currently in solitary in Illinois nor solitary survivors in Illinois. When a group of survivors became aware of this, including further details regarding said group bringing forth the bill preparing to cut a deal with Illinois sheriff’s to exclude them from the bill, among other unprincipled and opportunistic machinations, the solitary survivors had to step in and take over in order to stop unprincipled collusion with the State’s armed enforcers and to push the bill into a direction that those still behind the walls in solitary, their loved ones and other survivors could support. This bill, which was supported by many on the inside as well as survivors and other groups on the outside, was killed after one of the main collaborators with the Illinois Department of Corrections, a supposed “watchdog” group, entered into a backroom campaign to kill the bill on the absurd and ridiculous basis that “Illinois prisons are already too overcrowded; how could they possible let people out of solitary when the have no room?” Patently absurd and morally reprehensible – to condone and collude with state representatives to stop a bill that would have drastically limited solitary in Illinois and ensuring the bill would not pass and therefore thousands of brothers and sisters would continue to be tortured by the state of Illinois in solitary confinement. This groups annual fundraiser was subsequently protested by a group of solitary survivors and others.

The bill was then re-entered in 2017. As the bill moved toward having the support to have it passed, an associate of the Stop Solitary Coalition of Illinois spoke to a lobbyist for the Illinois Sheriffs Association, informing the sheriff’s of the bills’ advance and possible passing. After being informed about the bill, the Illinois Sheriff Association then colluded with various Illinois political representatives to have the bill killed – and killed explicitly on the barbaric basis that the sheriff’s had a statewide policy and practice of using solitary confinement to torture the mentally ill under their “care.” This policy was openly laid out in an article from the Illinois Times, a piece of s̶h̶i̶t̶ “journalism” which failed entirely to mention the fact that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days is considered torture under international law, nor the fact that the mentally ill are the one specific class of people that the United States Supreme Court has stated cannot be placed in solitary – see Madrid v. Gomez, which held:

The Court did find that it would violate the Eighth Amendment to subject prisoners who already had serious mental illnesses to prolonged solitary confinement, because such prolonged social isolation was very likely to inflict serious psychological pain on that subclass of prisoners. (PROLONGED SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AND THE CONSTITUTION, by Jules Lobel, 2008, in Journal of Constitutional Law Vol. 11 Issue 1, online at http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jcl/vol11/iss1/6/

Apparently such trivial matters are beyond the scope of a piece of “journalism” on the topic of solitary confinement; all you need to do is parrot the false and criminal claims of the Illinois Sheriffs Association.

But, in brief, that is a short history of Illinois’ failed bill to drastically reduce solitary confinement. Sold out from its inception by a group with no ties to those in solitary confinement, their families and survivors, who wanted to cut a deal with sheriffs to allow them to continue torturing people in solitary confinement; then, after there bill was entered the first time, sold out by a phoney prison “watchdog” group, then by someone formerly incarcerated tipping off the Illinois Sheriffs Association.

 


So, apologies for the delay in getting this written, and other things, but we’ve been dealing with a number of things… Recently, we somewhat reluctantly spoke at the American College of Correctional Physicians conference regarding solitary confinement. Brian Nelson, Monica Cosby, Afrika Lockett and myself as survivors made it clear we were there to let them know the real deal about the torture practice of solitary confinement.

Solitary Confinement Survivors ACCP 11-4-2017

Unfortunately I missed recording the beginning of Monica’s piece, but got most of the rest of the talk. Hard to do everything at once, without assistance… But we’ll keep doing it, cause no one else is. We’re currently raising funding to start our solitary confinement survivors group with Dr. Antonio Martinez.

Gregory Koger

Brian Nelson

Prison Liberation Collective

11-16-2017

 

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Few Thoughts

We also need to be much more in tune with what’s going on nationwide behind the walls & connecting up with families & formerly incarcerated out here to really cohere a mass movement for prison liberation. We are working on getting some solid components to facilitate that in place…

I’ll have a lot more to say regarding all of this soon, hopefully. Trying to get the chessboard set up piece by piece… But we live with the effects of prison (& some of us solitary confinement) moment to moment, & we are tying to get some real preliminary treatment going as well.

Some of us who came straight out of solitary after years or decades, we grew up in prison & solitary. And we jumped right in to the struggle as soon as possible when we got out. That lead to political prosecutions & retraumatization of being sent back for our political work, too.

And it’s really sad for me to have to say this, but the overwhelming majority of peeps we’ve worked with out here do not have the faintest clue as to how all of this affects us – even after numerous attempts to explain it. So the only conclusion is that they consciously don’t care.

They’ve made conscious decisions to use us for their own agendas, taking advantage of our heartfelt sincerity about doing whatever we can to fight this system. And then when we live with & try to deal with the after-effects, they’re nowhere to be found.

Then they make excuses & fabricate pretexts to abdicate their responsibilities & utter failures to live up to treating & communicating with us as actual human beings, much less “brothers” or “sisters” or “comrades” – projecting their own unprincipled decisions & acts onto us.

Or invite police organizations to national organizing events re stopping police terrorism & mass incarceration, refuse to respond to detailed critique of it ahead of time, then try to sweep it under the rug & refuse to allow a principled discussion of it at the event, or ever.

 
Anyhow, I’ve made it through some ups and downs, had to recognize that opportunists who are not the least concerned about my own well being are much better off out of my life (and no longer distracting me and sucking my energy into played out, non-serious and frankly dangerously irresponsible theatrics), and some significant pieces of the strategic chessboard are moving into place. I’ll have more to say soon…
 
-G
 
Gregory & Brian motorcycles
 
Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Confronting Torture in the United States: An Analysis of Solitary Confinement

Confronting Torture in the United States:
An Analysis of Solitary Confinement

Thursday, February 23, 2017
6:00 – 7:30 PM

Spanish Community Center
Joliet, IL

Panelists:

 

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Donate to the Prison Liberation Collective

We’re in motion – you can donate to the Prison Liberation Collective here

Prison Liberation Collective

www.ucimc.org/plc

PLC flyer

 

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In Motion

I’ve got a number of things in motion that are coming together. Our nonprofit project – the Prison Liberation Collective – has received fiscal sponsorship from the Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center, and we’re working to get several of the main components in operation within the next few months. We met with and will be receiving a small grant from the Crossroads Fund to concretize some of our operations. More details on all of this soon, but here’s an overview of some of our initial projects.

We anticipate starting our solitary confinement group program within the next few months, with Dr. Antonio Martinez, one of the founders of the Kovler Center for the Treatment for Survivors of Torture. This program will begin an unprecedented investigation into the effects of solitary confinement, led by survivors of solitary in conjunction with world-renowned psychologists who have treated torture survivors worldwide, with the hope and expectation that we will be able to learn and share important insights into collectively overcoming the effects of the torture we faced at the hands of the United States government. 

And as the torture practice of solitary confinement continues to be imposed upon an estimated 80,000 – 100,000 men, women and children in the United States, the Prison Liberation Collective will be focused politically and organizationally on fighting to stop solitary confinement and mass incarceration in the US. One major component of this will be the implementation of the nationwide prison journal that I’ve been planning, to connect up those behind the walls with each other and family members, loved ones, supporters and the movements for liberation and justice on this side of the walls, as well as to showcase prison writers. This will entail an online media component as well, building upon some of the work we started with the Torture Survivors Against Solitary website, and anticipating including podcasts and video interviews & discussions regarding solitary confinement and mass incarceration.

We’ll continue to have speaking events, including one coming up on February 10th in Champaign, IL. The bill we fought for last year to drastically limit solitary in Illinois (which was not passed because of the backroom machinations of a phoney prison “watchdog” group whose long-term agenda is to collaborate with the Illinois Department of “Corrections”) is being reintroduced, though because of the pitiful organizational experience of the previous attempt – and the lack of consideration for the effects that reliving solitary has on us as survivors –  the bill will likely not be something that I intend to spend much time on. There’s a public art exposure campaign featuring photos of solitary survivors and those currently locked in solitary that will be coming soon. And a major article on solitary confinement featuring survivors in Illinois in a major magazine will be coming soon. 

With the Prison Liberation Collective receiving fiscal sponsorship, we will be able to do a lot of work collectively on many issues related to ending solitary confinement and mass incarceration, with a directly built-in psychological support system. I will be able to let you know more soon about how you can contribute to our work.

-Gregory

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Treating US Solitary Confinement Torture Survivors & Nationwide Prison Journal

Next to zero research has been done on the effects of – and how to treat survivors of – long-term solitary confinement. As a survivor of over six years straight in solitary in the US, nearly ten years after my release the effects of solitary confinement still dominate my life.

In addition to all of the other organizing work against solitary confinement and mass incarceration I’m working on, one major project that I am beginning to work on is a center for the treatment of survivors of torture in the form of solitary confinement in the United States. My doctor and dear friend Dr. Antonio Martinez, one of the founders of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture, is working very closely with me and Brian Nelson, another dear friend of mine who spent 23 years in solitary confinement, to form a non-profit organization dedicated to treating survivors of solitary confinement in the US.

In addition to treating torture survivors, we intend to be able to do more of our work against solitary confinement and mass incarceration within this organization. For example, one other major project that I have conceptualized but not implemented yet because of the need to deal with more of my own issues as a survivor first is a nationwide prison journal that connects prisoners across the nation, showcases writing of prisoners, connects up the family members of those incarcerated and brings some connections between the prison movement and the movements for Black liberation and against police murder on this side of the walls. This is long overdue in my opinion.

But I wanted to fill people in on some of the longer-term projects that I have been working on and will in the near future be putting significantly more energy into. We will have more concrete ways that people can contribute to these projects soon.

 

Gregory A.K.

Co-Founder of Torture Survivors Against Solitary

 

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stop Solitary Confinement! A Teach-in and Call to Action – November 1, 2016

Brian Nelson & Gregory Koger, founders of Torture Survivors Against Solitary, will be speaking at University of Chicago on November 1, 2016:

Stop Solitary Confinement! A Teach-in and Call to Action 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 – 6pm – 8pm

University of Chicago
The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
5733 S University Ave.
Chicago, IL

Why is solitary confinement torture? What makes it a racial justice and queer issue? What is the history of solitary confinement in IL? What are the ramifications of recent IL solitary confinement policy changes? The Stop Solitary Coalition of Illinois will lead this teach-in answering these questions and more. Then they will talk about how students can join the current fight to end solitary confinement. We will also write letters in support of prisoners who are currently hunger striking against solitary confinement in CA and WI.

Dinner will be served.

Our teachers will include:
Alan Mills, Executive Director of Uptown People’s Law Center, an attorney that has litigated against solitary confinement since 1982
Gregory Koger, a solitary confinement survivor
Brian Nelson, Prisoners’ Rights Coordinator at Uptown People’s Law Center
Afrika, a member of Black and Pink: Chicago

Also be on the look out for our installation of a box the size of a solitary confinement cell, starting Thursday October 27th.

All are welcome!

Funded in part by Student Government

University of Chicago Students Working Against Prisons

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Solitary Confinement Torture Survivors Bring Truth To IDOC Hearing

Stop Solitary Coalition at Springfield IDOC Hearing - October 19, 2016

Brian Nelson and Gregory Koger of Torture Survivors Against Solitary attended an IDOC Hearing in Springfield, IL on October 19, 2016, along with other solitary survivors, formerly incarcerated and comrades with the Stop Solitary Coalition.

Our purpose in attending this hearing was to oppose changes to the IDOC rules that could make retaliation against jailhouse lawyers easier, and to continue to oppose the IDOC & State of Illinois’ use of torture in the form of solitary confinement.

Brian spoke at the hearing, video below.

Solitary confinement in excess of 15 days is torture under international law. Brian spent 23 years in solitary. I spent about seven and a half years out of the 11 years I was locked up in solitary and various forms of segregation, including being placed into administrative detention solitary confinement in the county jail before I had even been convicted. I went to trial at 17 years old from solitary confinement in an adult county jail. In prison, as conditions became more repressive, I became more politically conscious. After getting in a fight with some C/O’s in Stateville I was given indeterminate segregation and spent over 6 years straight in solitary confinement in Pontiac.

Even though the IDOC hearing dealt mainly with rewrites to the IDOC “disciplinary” and grievance rules and procedures, the IDOC went out of their way to claim they are “so concerned” (to look like they are doing something about) solitary confinement.

One simple step they must take: stop torturing people in solitary confinement. Period.


Above: Africa of Black & Pink and the Stop Solitary Coalition speaks at IDOC Hearing.

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

September 9th National Prison Strike Chicago & Solitary Film Screening at the Capitol

September 9th National Prison Strike Chicago

On September 9th we stood with the National Prison Strike called on the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison Uprising (which itself was in part a response to the assassination of Comrade George Jackson by the State). This action was organized by formerly incarcerated convicts in conjunction with comrades in Black & Pink Chicago and the Anarchist Black Cross Chicago.

Word continues to come in about ongoing actions that are part of and in support of the Sept 9th National Prison Strike. Our comrade James Kilgore has an important piece on September 9th that you should check out:

“We’re Freedom Fighters”:
The Story of the Nationwide Prison Labor Strike

September 9th National Prison Strike Chicago

Photos from Chicago’s march from the State of Illinois Building to the MCC federal prison. Thanks to Alan, Alex and Monica for the pics.

-Gregory

September 9th National Prison Strike Chicago MCC


On September 12 we attended a Congressional viewing of the documentary film Solitary directed by Kristi Jacobson. The film was shown in the Orientation Theater in the Capitol.

Numerous people that viewed the movie have been directly involved in the fighting to abolish this barbaric torture in the United States. Family members that presently have loved ones being tortured were also present and they suffered heart-breaking reality as they watched the horrific conditions their loved ones have suffered in every day for years.

gregory_a_k, Five Mualimm-ak, Silvia Mendez, Juan Mendez - UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Brian Nelson

gregory_a_k, Five Mualimm-ak, Silvia Mendez, Juan Mendez – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Brian Nelson

Several men that endured this barbaric torture were also present but could not watch the film, doing so would have devastated them mentally because everyone one of them suffers Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as survivor’s guilt. Just being present took a lot out of the men that endure this torture and their loved ones.

Jon Dambacher, Brian Nelson, Five Mualimm-ak, gregory_a_k

Jon Dambacher, Brian Nelson, Five Mualimm-ak, gregory_a_k

I do not call myself a survivor because I haven’t survived it. Each day is a struggle, each day the gray box attacks me and there is no way to stop it even after six (6) years.

-Brian Nelson

NB – The following photo can only be appropriately viewed while listening to 2Pac’s Picture Me Rollin’ Roll Call – gregory_a_k

 

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

untitled

I’m writing in solitary confinement.

Alone.

With constant noise.

And walls.

Just walls.

Remembering.

Being beaten.

With leather belts.

As a child.

By people who were supposed to be your “parents.”

Whatever the fuck those are.

Whoever the fuck those are.

But nothing matters.

In those moments.

Strung out across seconds and minutes and days and weeks and years on end.

In the Cell.

Alone.

Again.

Forever.

 

And here I sit again.

Trying to write.

Trying to Remember.

Or Forget.

Those Cells.

Those Days.

In flashing Technicolor glow across the Grey.

White walls.

Glass one-way mirrors on prison gun towers.

With a bullet with your number and hour and minute inscribed upon each particle

Careening at light speed towards oblivion.

Remembering and Forgetting Countless Lives

Each

Time

You

Breathe

And your heart beats.

A name.

Forgotten.

Because none of it mattered.

And nothing does or ever will in your eyes

Aflame for each other but always apart.

No one ever is.

And the world ends every time you leave and reconfigures itself anew again in this fucked up position every time

 

Aloft on wings of Flame and Fire

Burns All of the Memories out of your Mind.

Because

In Remembering

you are forgetting

what you wanted to be

And does that life exist?

Somewhere?

Unbeknownst to you is another life

full of laughter

and longing

and joy

that erases

the years

With every touch of your fingertip upon my cheek.

But who would touch me?

Without shackles

and chains

and cuffs

constraining

my dying body

So certain you could lock the door and throw away the key…

But what becomes of boys and girls unwanted and unloved?

Ashamed of imaginary sins.

Of retribution

from figments

of your own

twisted imagination?

 

Sold.

By peddlers

of lies

and trash.

Rubbish.

Strewn across a dirty Chicago alley

full of piss

and vomit

from the regurgitated filth

That forms

In “Those Places”

That you created.

From your own

petty fears

and vainglorious

necessity

for everything

to be

“perfect”

In Whose Eyes?

Motherfuckers.

At whose benefit?

For whose posterity?

From what other

lofty sounding

pile of shit

politician

who lives

cannibalistically

upon

Those People

 

I was telling people about the day I was released from prison. Directly from having spent over six years straight in solitary confinement.

I was shackled and chained & handcuffed pushing a cart with the remnants of 11 years spent in the “custody” of the Department of Corrections

Went to trial from solitary confinement when I was seventeen. Spent about seven and a half years in various forms of solitary confinement

But here I am.

Among the so-called living.

Doing something resembling trying to live a life.

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , ,

Remembering Melvin “Head” Haywood

We received word this morning that Head – Melvin Haywood – had passed away. Brian Nelson of Uptown People’s Law Center discussed the impact that Melvin Haywood had on him and other young guys coming into prison as well as the time they spent together in solitary confinement in Tamms, and I spoke to the political targeting of Growth and Development for political organizing (specifically with it’s 21st Century Vote organization) and its interconnection with the COINTELPRO attacks on the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation movement which laid the basis for the whole system of mass incarceration and New Jim Crow:

Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show – Remembering Melvin “Head” Haywood – 8-14-2016

We also received word on memorials for Head:

Memorial for Melvin Haywood aka Head – Wednesday August 17th 4pm-8pm at V75 lounge 125 W. 75th St. Chicago

The Haywood Family Heartfelt and Lovingly Announce the Celebration of Life of Melvin Jack Haywood A.K.A FATTY B.K.A HEAD  #HUESOFBLUE  Saturday August 20, 2016  Visitation: New Beginnings Church of Chicago  6620 S King Drive.. Chicago,Il 60637 From 12PM-5PM  Farewell Celebration to follow  Dorchester Banquet Hall 1515 E. 154th St Dolton,Il 60419  From 6pm -11pm  All Family and Friends are Welcome

Head Memorial Brian & Gregory

Head Memorial BBQ Brian Gregory


FYI – To peeps that need to know: I’m off FaceBook, you can hit me up on Twitter @gregory_a_k or Instagram @gregory_a_k

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wandering

The last few months have been rough, putting in a lot of work against solitary confinement, and specifically in support of a very non-seriously planned bill (the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act) to limit solitary in Illinois. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in organizing with people who were less serious and less organized… It really is detrimental to do some half-assed bullshit like what happened with that bill.

My friend Brian Nelson and myself threw in as much as we could, given that we both have lived for many years in those cells and still have friends there, and took this as seriously as possible. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the vast majority of other people and groups working on this bill. There was no seriousness to the time-frame for organizing support for it. There was no plan – or time – for support to be built. There was no concern whatsoever for the cost that it would take on us – or others –  as survivors of torture.  This isn’t meant to be an in-depth critique or analysis, but it was terribad.

Certainly I think it was the right thing to do to support the bill and put in the work that we did, but I don’t think I can in good conscience do something similar again. You cannot ask people to put themselves on the line for something that isn’t serious. I’ve spent far too much time and energy killing myself slowly on the front lines of struggles that far too few people involved with are really taking seriously.

And just in terms of the personal cost, speaking in the Capitol of the government that tortured me and continues to use the torture practice of solitary confinement was probably the hardest part. I mean there was no question I’d go and do it, and even though I spoke entirely extemporaneously I feel that what I said was true and true to my convictions. But I don’t know that it was “worth it” – I don’t feel that one word that any of us said was taken seriously. I don’t have any expectation that what we said had any real impact on whether this bill passed or not (or might in the future). It certainly did not stop the practice of torture in the form of solitary confinement in Illinois. And we are worse off emotionally and psychologically from the process…


So here I am, back in Tokyo for a couple weeks. I was here for a few days in April, which was cool, but wanted to get more of a feel for the city. I wish I knew Japanese so that I could talk to more people. But I’ve definitely had some interesting experiences. Even been on a few “dates” – which I guess it takes coming hallway around the globe for me to experience, since I have no such luck in the US…

Speaking of shitholes, I’ve watched a bit of the election crap on tv here. I cannot believe anyone takes choosing between Dumb and Dumber every four years to be something reflective of serious political engagement. Despite the very real shortcomings and limitations, I’m happy that there is finally a real incipient movement for liberation developing in the streets (and prisons) in the US. Much more needs to develop, of course, but for the first time in decades something has ruptured – especially since Ferguson.

Anyhow, so I guess I’ve been on a couple “dates” – I’m not very impressed by the process thus far. Other than that I’ve just been wandering around Tokyo, trying to figure out my next steps, trying to figure out where I’m going… None of that is particularly clear to me. In a lot of ways I’m more isolated than I have been perhaps ever. That is not the best place for me to be, but despite my best efforts, I always remain alone.

I’ve got a few more stories to tell, but writing has been much more difficult than I’ve anticipated. A large part of it I’m sure is related to the fact that my brain does not want to really re-confront traumatic shit, even though I live with that every moment of every day. I’m not really unhappy with the last piece I wrote, but it wasn’t what I expected it to be. It is what it is, I needed to let it go. But it’s not the whole story, it’s not the book I intend – and sometimes feel that I need – to write.

Right now, the only thing I know I have to try to do is survive. I’ll figure out the rest on the way. But I have to be in a place that I can survive. I don’t know where that place is. But I’ll wander around until I find it…

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Gregory Koger’s Statement to the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee Hearing on the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act HB5417

Gregory Koger’s Statement to the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee Hearing on the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act HB5417:

My name is Gregory Koger. I’m here to demand that the state of Illinois stop torturing people in prison.

I spent over six years straight in solitary confinement in Pontiac “Correctional Center.” I was incarcerated when I was 17 years old. I went to trial when I was 17, before I was even convicted, from solitary confinement in the adult county jail.

The United Nations has categorically stated that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days constitutes torture. As we’ve seen, we have been there many more days than 15 days.

And there is no justification from the Illinois Department of Corrections to state that people should be held for longer than 15 days in solitary confinement for “security” purposes.

Torture is a crime. There is no excuse for that – for “security” purposes or any other reason.

You know, I still wake up at night and expect to be in a prison cell. I grew up in prison, I grew up in cells. You know. And I know people who have mutilated themselves because of losing their rational cognitive faculties. In these cells. That are being operated by this government, the government of the state of Illinois.  And, you know, it has to stop. It has to stop.

-Gregory Koger, to the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee in Support of the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act HB5417

My statement starts at 47:30 minutes in on this video. Yes, I know the video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but it is what it is…

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee Hearing on the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act

Video of the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee hearing on the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act, which would severely limit the use of solitary confinement in Illinois – April 20, 2016

Speakers include:

Alan Mills, Executive Director, Uptown People’s Law Center

Brian Nelson, Prisoners Rights Coordinator, Uptown People’s Law Center

Lee Anne Schultz, her husband Gerard spent a long time in solitary

Geraldine Smith

Gregory Koger

Monica Cosby

 

Yes, I know the video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but it is what it is… My statement starts at 47:30 minutes in on this video.

Gregory Koger’s Statement to the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee Hearing on the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act HB5417:

My name is Gregory Koger. I’m here to demand that the state of Illinois stop torturing people in prison.

I spent over six years straight in solitary confinement in Pontiac “Correctional Center.” I was incarcerated when I was 17 years old. I went to trial when I was 17, before I was even convicted, from solitary confinement in the adult county jail.

The United Nations has categorically stated that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days constitutes torture. As we’ve seen, we have been there many more days than 15 days.

And there is no justification from the Illinois Department of Corrections to state that people should be held for longer than 15 days in solitary confinement for “security” purposes.

Torture is a crime. There is no excuse for that – for “security” purposes or any other reason.

You know, I still wake up at night and expect to be in a prison cell. I grew up in prison, I grew up in cells. You know. And I know people who have mutilated themselves because of losing their rational cognitive faculties.

In these cells. That are being operated by this government, the government of the state of Illinois.  And, you know, it has to stop. It has to stop.

-Gregory Koger, to the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee in Support of the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act HB5417

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ending the Torture of Solitary Confinement In Illinois

Solitary confinement is categorically condemned as a form of torture by the United Nations, yet the United States has perfected its coldly inhuman use in supermax prisons, SHUs and segregation units throughout the country. The use of solitary confinement is intimately interconnected with the white supremacist implementation of mass incarceration and New Jim Crow laws targeting principally Black and Brown youth – who this system has utterly failed and has no future for – condemning them to a life of harassment by police and incarceration unprecedented in human history.

Imagine locking yourself in your bathroom for a week, a month, a year, a decade. Imagine never seeing the sun for years. Imagine never being able to touch or hug your loved ones for years. That might give you a small glimpse into what it would be like to be locked in solitary confinement, yet it would be much more comfortable in many ways than being in those cells.

I spent many years in solitary confinement in Illinois prisons. In fact, before I was even convicted I went to trial as a seventeen year old charged as an adult from solitary confinement in the county jail.

Due to the heroic struggles of the Pelican Bay and California prison hunger strikers and the work of many people in recent years protesting and exposing the pervasive use of torture by the United States government, there is now momentum pushing the rulers of this system to back away from the use of this torture practice.

In Illinois, we may have a unique opportunity to drastically limit the use of solitary confinement. A recent bill has been introduced by Rep. LaShawn Ford to limit the use of isolation to 5 days, currently named the “Isolated Confinement Restriction Act.” As currently written, this bill would restrict the use of isolation to 5 days at a time during any 150 day period, and incorporates a number of restrictions.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t participate in electoral politics. This bill will on its face severely restrict the use of solitary confinement and remove from the Illinois Department of Corrections and Sheriffs in County Jails, and any private prison or detention center in the state of Illinois the ability to formally use State-sanctioned torture in the form of solitary confinement. As long as this bill remains true to its current form and intentions, I can do nothing but support it and work to ensure that it passes so that those still languishing in those cells where I spent over six years straight in solitary confinement will no longer be subjected to that form of torture.

Our understanding is that this bill may move rather quickly and be put to a vote by May. There are several hearings scheduled, one in March and one in April, which I will convey the further details of once I have the exact information. Mobilizing people to come out to those hearings and to to convey to both the public at large as well as the representatives of the government of the State of Illinois that we will no longer allow the practice of torture in the form of solitary confinement will be imperative.

I generally ask very little of my friends, comrades, and supporters. Supporting this struggle to end solitary confinement in Illinois is one thing that I am asking that you step up and be part of.

We will have more details to convey as they become available. But we, those of us who have survived the horrors of long-term solitary confinement and live with the aftermath every moment of every day, are committed to ensuring that our brothers and sisters who remain there are no longer subjected to this torture.

-Gregory

Letter from my Friend and Comrade Brian Nelson on Ending Solitary Confinement in Illinois:

Over the past several years, I have spoken at numerous Universities and other forums about the torture I endured in solitary confinement. There is no doubt that solitary confinement is torture and has taken a terrible toll on my life. Anyone that has seen me talk have seen the affects first hand and understand why we need to join together in this fight to stop these horrific acts of torture. Some have asked me why I continually put myself through the torment of reliving solitary when I talk about it. First off, I believe that nobody should ever have to endure the evil treatment I endured. Second, no mother, wife, parent, child or friend should be tormented by seeing what solitary confinement does to their loved one. Have no doubt that my mother was tortured just by looking at me. Thirdly, solitary confinement is morally wrong and so barbaric that most of the countries in the world have outlawed its use and condemn the United States for the use of solitary and its overuse.

The United States government has admitted that they have no idea who is in solitary confinement in the Federal Prison system, nor why they are there, how long they have been there, or if they will ever be released. Recently, the federal government has restricted the use of solitary on juveniles and mentally ill prisoners. Unfortunately, this only applies to the federal prison system not the states and it is the states that hold most of the prisoners in solitary! We need to work to protect the millions of individuals incarcerated in the state penal systems.

I have been asked hundreds of times, “What can we do to stop this?” Well, I finally have an answer. Illinois State Representative Ford has entered a bill to restrict the use of solitary and he needs us to help educate the public about the evils of solitary confinement. Representative Ford needs us to form groups to lobby our local Representatives and State Senators to support this bill. I am appealing to everyone to help. Form a student group, create web pages, educate friends, family, and yourselves about how horrific and destructive solitary confinement is upon a person’s mind!

I am positive you have hundreds of other ideas. I will help anyway I can. Just let me know the best way I can help you in this fight. As I have said numerous times, you are the future and you can change this. I firmly believe that you can do this and a lot more.

Please help stop this evil and horrific torture that is being unjustly inflicted upon human beings. THANK YOU!

Brian Nelson – Prisoners’ Rights Coordinator, Uptown People’s Law Center

Solitary Confinement In Illinois: Facts & Demands

FACTS:

  1. Solitary confinement in excess of 15 days amounts to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and can rise to the level of torture1 – Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
  2. “In the United States, more than 80,000 people are being held in solitary confinement, often in miserable conditions, for periods of time that qualify as torture.2
  3. In Illinois, the current maximum amount of time a person can be held in solitary confinement is an indeterminate period of time. There is no limit on how long the State of Illinois can hold a person in solitary confinement, and many are held for periods of time that constitute torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
  4. Torture is a crime.
  5. The State of Illinois is currently holding an unknown but knowable number of people in isolation under conditions that constitute torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
  6. The Isolated Confinement Restriction Act would prohibit the state-sanctioned use of torture in the form of solitary confinement, by limiting the maximum number of days a person can be held in isolation to 5 in any 150 day period.

DEMANDS:

  1. The Isolated Confinement Restriction Act must be passed and implemented immediately.
  2. Survivors of the state-sanctioned use of torture in the form of solitary confinement must be provided reparations and treatment.

 

1 Can International Laws and Standards Help Curb Solitary Confinement in the United States? By AYLIN MANDURIC AUGUST 6, 2015
2 Id.

Solitary Confinement In Illinois: Facts & Demands.pdf

More at our website – Torture Survivors Against Solitary

Sign the Petition Supporting the Bill Here

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Putting In Work

So I was reading a pretty interesting article, The New Black Power. Good piece on some of the young Black folks putting in work for liberation in Chicago. Got down to this paragraph, and really started thinking about everything that’s been going on since George Zimmerman was acquitted for gunning down Trayvon Martin in July 2013:

But what happened the second day wasn’t part of the plan: George Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. The young activists held hands as they watched the TV reports. Some wept.

The tension that had built up found its outlet in that verdict. It was, Carruthers says, “a moment of collective trauma, but also a moment of collective clarity.” That night, half of the participants hit the streets to protest, while the rest stayed behind to write what would become the group’s first public statement. (The New Black Power, Chicago magazine March 2016)

I had spent most of that week keeping up with the trial and preparing for the almost-inevitable protest we would have to have when there was no justice for Trayvon. It was a warm July summer weekend, and I was preparing to be sent back to jail to finish serving a 300 day sentence for a fabricated political prosecution based on video recording a political statement on an iPhone at the “Ethical Humanist” Society of Chicago. I was there in part to record any police brutality and instead became the subject of police brutality and a political prosecution. That is another story for another time. But after appealing the case up to the Illinois Supreme Court, my appeal was rejected without any of my substantive legal claims being addressed. I also had a warrant out for my arrest for missing an alleged court hearing on said case which was never sent to my attorney. Another surreal side story I’ll omit at this time.

So this entire time that I’m participating in organizing these protests, I have a warrant, I’m preparing to “turn myself in” at the next court hearing on July 23, 2013. Turning oneself in was never something I saw as a noble act, nor did I intend to smugly submit to injustice based on knowing that I was being completely set up. There was nothing that I liked or felt good with about “turning myself in” – except for the agenda of struggle I set for myself to be part of during my time locked up.

The California prison hunger strike was kicking off again and I was doing radio shows to support the hunger strikers and preparing to join the hunger strike myself when they locked me up on July 23rd. I was also planning on bringing a lawsuit against Cook County Jail for banning all newspapers – which I did. And I won that lawsuit in July 2015 – see Cook County Jail’s 30-year Long Ban on Newspapers Ruled Unconstitutional. But that’s jumping ahead.

I go to my court hearing on July 23rd, accompanied by 30 or 40 friends, comrades and supporters. I began the hunger strike the previous night just before midnight, after a small piece of baklava and my traditional libations of a blunt and a 40oz of Olde English 800. After a few perfunctory words from the judge, I’m taken out of the back of the courtroom in handcuffs into the bullpens in the bowels of the courthouse to be processed and sent on a bus back to Cook County Jail.

I spent two weeks on hunger strike in Cook County Jail in support of the California prison hunger strike that summer. The next summer I’d appear in newspapers and night vision green video returning tear gas to militarized pigs moving on us with APCs and assault rifles, standing with the people of Ferguson.

Battlefield USA Inside Edition Ferguson

LOLs @ Ur Headlines, Bros

And so much happened between my hunger strike in Cook County Jail and Ferguson and since… Supporting the hunger strikes in Menard, the organizing I did with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for the October Month of Resistance, being on Jesse Jackson’s tv show (not without a lot of consideration – another story for another time), Ferguson October, the panel I did at the National Lawyers Guild conference, going back to the prison I spent over six years straight in solitary to support some brothers there on hunger strike with my friends and comrades Brian Nelson and Mark Clements…

Pontiac protest - Brian Nelson, Mark Clements, Gregory Koger

Brian Nelson, Mark Clements and Gregory Koger supporting the hunger strike at Pontiac “Correctional Center” in September 2014

Speaking at universities and high schools, shutting down Lake Shore Drive and the Dan Ryan for Eric Garner and Laquan McDonald and too many others…

I’m trying to process and write about all of this, while living with way too many years in solitary confinement particularly but really, prison period. Fighting a 4 year long political prosecution where I was sent back to jail didn’t help in many ways, even though we did a tremendous amount taking on that case and won – hands down – politically even if I lost legally.

Shit has been really hard for the last year or so. In some ways I’ve made some important steps, in my personal life and in my writing. But in a lot of ways I struggle to even make it from day to day. I just gotta keep putting in work on the writing, on fighting to survive, on fighting this system… I got a few stories I need to tell yet.

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hello 2016

Been a while since I’ve done this. Writing, here, just for myself.

A lot has changed. For me, personally, as well as on a lot of fronts.

My dad died in December 2014 and my mom died in October 2015.

I managed, somehow, to make it through 2015.

Some true friends stood with me.

I’ve taken some real, important steps in my personal life.

I’ve done some writing, and made some real progress on the book.

I’ve had to accept that some of what I’m dealing with is going to take longer than I’d like.

I have still played a small part in fighting this system – and will continue to do so.

I’m regrouping, working on writing, and figuring out my next steps.

I hope to have more I can share here soon.

 

Gregory

Chicago – January 26, 2016

 

Miss Geraldine Smith’s Radio Show

Recently I’ve been invited to speak on Miss Geraldine Smith’s radio program on Sunday nights with my friend Brian Nelson, Prisoners’ Rights Coordinator at Uptown People’s Law Center.

 

Discussing Solitary Confinement – Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 1-31-16
Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 1-24-16
Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 1-17-16
Miss Geraldine Smith Ratio Show 12-27-15
Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 12-6-15

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

Cook County Jail’s 30-year Long Ban on Newspapers Ruled Unconstitutional

Cook County Jail’s 30-year long ban on all newspapers has been ruled unconstitutional today by Judge Matthew F. Kennelly in a lawsuit I brought specifically challenging this policy: Koger v Dart, Case No. 13 C 7150. I must convey my great thanks to my lawyers and friends Mark Weinberg and Adele Nicholas for their work on this case. Importantly, I should emphatically note that the assertion beginning the opinion, that I was ever a member of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago, is factually incorrect. The “Ethical Humanist Society” was responsible for my 4-year long political prosecution and ultimately 300-day jail sentence for videotaping a statement against censorship by Sunsara Taylor, who had been disinvited to speak by the Ethical Humanist Society, on an iPhone. That aside, I’m glad that a policy that I knew to be patently unjust has been declared unconstitutional and I will continue to be on the frontlines of the struggle against the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow on many fronts.

Ruling PDF: Cook County Jail newspaper ban declared unconstitutional Kennelly decision 7-6-15

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

October Month of Resistance Events in Chicago

Chicago State Ferguson Teach In

 

Black, Blue & Betrayed: A Teach-In

Wednesday October 8 – 11am – 1pm

Chicago State University

9501 S. King Drive, Chicago, IL

Library, 4th Floor Auditorium


 

Roosevelt University Public Forum

THE NEW JIM CROW, POLICE MILITARIZATION,
AND THE LESSONS OF FERGUSON

Thursday, October 9 –  3:30 – 5:00 pm

425 S. Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL – Room WB 616

Panelists:

GREGORY KOGER – STOP MASS INCARCERATION NETWORK

MARK LEWIS TAYLOR – PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

BRIAN OROZCO – CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY

GARY MCCLELLAND – DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, NORTWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Organized by Roosevelt University Students for Stop Mass Incarceration Network

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

October Nationwide Protests to Stop Mass Incarceration Aimed at Epidemic of Police Killings, Injustice of Solitary Confinement, Racial Profiling, Imprisonment of Immigrants

October Nationwide Protests to Stop Mass Incarceration Aimed at Epidemic of Police Killings, Injustice of Solitary Confinement, Racial Profiling, Imprisonment of Immigrants

Pledge of Resistance

Chicago Kickoff Of Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation

  • October 1, 2014 – Chicago Press Conference and Protest 
  • 8:30am at Cook County Jail (26th & California) 
  • 5pm at Thompson Center (Randolph & Clark)
  • For further information Contact Stop Mass Incarceration Network: 312-933-9586


Vowing a month of actions which stand like a giant STOP signto American society so that protest of mass incarceration, police murder, torture in prisons, criminalization of a generation and attacks on immigrants can’t be covered up, whited out, ignored, neutralized or suppressed,organizers announced plans for the October 2014 Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.

A wide variety of organizations will hold street protests, symposiums, campus actions, outreach to prisons and courthouses. Initiated by revolutionary communist leader Carl Dix and Union Theological Professor Dr. Cornel West, the Call for the month is endorsed by families of those killed by police, former prisoners, clergy, academics, and community organizations, and public figures such as Chuck D, who recorded for the Month, and Alice Walker, whose poem “Gather,” is dedicated to Dix and Dr. West.

Dix has said “Like so many others I saw the video of police choking Eric Garner as he cried out ‘I can’t breathe.’ In Ferguson, MO I stood at the spot where a cop gunned down Michael Brown and left his body lying for hours. I protested his murder, and was picked out for arrest because I spoke in support of the youth righteously demanding ‘THIS MUST STOP!’ In October, tens of thousands of people from many different backgrounds will join together all across the country to act to stop it.”

Photo: FJJ

Photo: FJJ

Oct 1, 8:30am Chicago Protest at Cook County Jail & Press Conference  

Speakers will include:

  • Gregory Koger, former prisoner and revolutionary communist activist with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Gregory is a torture survivor who spent over six years straight in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. He spent most of August in Ferguson, MO.
  • Hannibal Salim Ali, former prisoner with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, whose nephew, Anjustine Hunter was killed by police in Tennessee;
  • Mark Lewis Taylor of Princeton Theological Seminary* and founder of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal;
  • Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois*, Chicago (retired).
  • Family members of prisoners, ex-prisoners, family members of people killed by the Chicago police, students, community activists, revolutionaries, religious leaders.
Photo: FJJ

Photo: FJJ

Oct 1, 5pm Chicago Protest at Thompson Center & Press Conference

Speakers at Thompson Center at 5pm include:

  • Gregory Koger, Stop Mass Incarceration Network;
  • Ricky Ford, father of Denzel Ford shot 8 times by Chicago police;
  • Stephanie Curtis, Roosevelt University Students for Stop Mass Incarceration Network
  • Charles Perry, Trinity United Church of Christ*
  • Leon Bailey, Ph.D., Roosevelt University*
  • Brian M. Orozco, Attorney with Greg Kulis and Associates*, who has worked on criminal, civil, and family law cases for inmates in both California and Illinois, interacting with over 150 incarcerated clients in the process.

*for identification purposes only

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Furthering the Movement to Stop Mass Incarceration – Major Panel at National Lawyers Guild Convention in Chicago

NLG SMIN panelists

Law for the People 2014: National Convention Major Panel

September 6, 2014 – 10:30AM – Noon

Furthering the Movement to Stop Mass Incarceration

Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro – Ballroom Salon B – C

2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States, with an additional 5 million under the control of the criminal “in”justice system on probation and parole. Over 30,000 are in immigration detention centers, and Obama has deported a record 2 million immigrants. As Michelle Alexander points out in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, courthouse doors are closed to systemic legal challenges to the racial inequality which has lead to more than 50% of the prison population being people of color.

This will not stop without a mass movement that demands an end to mass incarceration and the criminalization of Black and Latino youth. In this panel, former prisoners and others intimately familiar with the broader social consequences of mass incarceration will lead a discussion on how to turn around what is now two generations living under the injustice of mass incarceration. We will call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October 2014, initiated by Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix, co-founders of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

NLG Hannibal Gregory

Presenters

Gregory Koger – Revolutionary communist activist with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN). Gregory just returned from spending most of the last month on the front lines of the Ferguson rebellion in response to the police execution of Michael Brown. A member of the National Lawyers Guild, paralegal and former jailhouse lawyer, Gregory spent 11 years in prison, including over 6 years straight in solitary confinement, where he transformed himself from a gang member to a revolutionary. Since his release from prison has dedicated his life to ending the injustices of capitalism. He has spoken from cellblocks to universities about need to build a mass movement to end mass incarceration as part of the struggle for a liberated world for all humanity. Deeply inspired by the California prison hunger strike, Gregory organized a Chicago Forum on the California Prison Hunger Strike and Torture in U.S. Prisons in August 2011. During the 30,000-strong resumption of the hunger strike in July 2013, he spoke on NPR and other radio stations in support of the brothers and sisters on hunger strike, and he spent two weeks on hunger strike in solidarity while locked down in Cook County Jail serving a 300-day sentence for recording a political statement on an iPhone. He is currently the Plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the decades-old policy of banning all newspapers in Cook County Jail (Koger v. Dart).

Mark Lewis Taylor – Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. Writer, teacher, scholar and activist, Mark Lewis Taylor is a theologian in the vein of engaged thinkers who trace and analyze liberating spirit – the spirit of decolonizing political practices, wherein re-membered collective suffering of the earth and its oppressed peoples can become “specters,” material forces for multidimensional revolutionary change. In addition to being the author of several books, he is the founder of “Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal,” a group of teachers from all levels of education, organizing since 1995 for a new trial on behalf of Abu-Jamal, a journalist  on Pennsylvania’s death row for 30 years. Activist movements achieved a victory in 2011, securing Abu-Jamal’s transfer from death row to general population. Nevertheless, the struggle to free him from prison continues, as many join in support of Desmond Tutu’s demand for his “immediate release.”

Brian Orozco – NLG member and practicing lawyer who has worked with prisoners and their families in California and Illinois and will speak to police/prison guard brutality, what the prisoners and their family members have been doing to protest their own conditions, and why massive resistance is needed to end the torture of solitary confinement and other atrocities. And why the NLG needs to be part of the Month of Resistance.

Hannibal Salim Ali – Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Hannibal attended the April 2014 SMIN strategy meeting in New York City with Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix – co-founders of SMIN – and participated in the collective drafting of the Call For A Month Of Resistance To Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression And The Criminalization Of A Generation. Hannibal spent many years in prison himself and is the uncle of Anjustine Hunter, who was murdered by police in Tennessee.

 

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Discussions on Mass Incarceration

I’ve had the chance to speak recently regarding mass incarceration – here are a couple of the discussions:

Jail Industrial Complex – UpFront with Rev. Jessie Jackson

Hosted by Rev. Jessie Jackson. Panelists:
Barbara Arnwine, attorney, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law;
Jonathan Jackson, RainbowPUSH national spokesman;
Gregory Koger, Stop Mass Incarceration Network;
Dr. Donna Leak, former high school superintendent;
Michael Seng, Attorney, Law Professor, John Marshall Law School, Chicago;
David Shapiro, Attorney, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University Law School.

 

New Revelations in 30,000 Strong Pelican Bay Prisoner Hunger Strike

Former inmate Gregory Koger and Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Alexis Agathocleous discuss the progress since Pelican Bay hunger strike and the merits of solitary confinement as torture –   March 7, 2014

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rising From The Pit: Illinois Prisoners Join National Upsurge of Resistance to Torture and Dehumanizing Conditions in U.S. Prisons

In 1878 convicts began backbreaking labor carving into the limestone bluffs along the bank of the Mississippi River outside Chester, Illinois. Over a decade of sweat and sorrow at gunpoint produced two cell houses enclosed by a massive wall built from the limestone quarried by the prisoners. The prison – formerly Southern Illinois Penitentiary and now Menard “Correctional Center” – is known as “The Pit.”

On January 15, 2014, prisoners in The Pit’s “High Security Unit” began a hunger strike to oppose their placement into inhumane conditions in isolation under Administrative Detention. Solitary confinement exceeding 15 days is considered torture and prohibited under international law. We must support the prisoners stepping forward and putting their lives on the line to demand an end to these crimes being systematically perpetrated by the rulers of the United States.

The courageous hunger strike by prisoners at Menard is the latest uprising in a wave of prisoner-lead struggle against torture and the dehumanizing conditions within the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration. Last year’s 30,000-strong resumption of the California prison hunger strike (which I joined for two weeks in solidarity while a political prisoner in Cook County Jail) was the biggest and most publicized, but a number of other organized struggles by prisoners have taken place in the last several years – from work stoppages in Georgia to hunger strikes in Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and Washington. Also last year prisoners in Guantanamo participated in a long hunger strike and faced brutal forced feeding, bringing resistance and exposure on a more international level. Recently, prisoners in Indiana’s Westville “Correctional Facility” began a hunger strike on January 13, 2014 to protest nutritionally deficient food.

*****

Many of the prisoners on hunger strike in Menard were formerly held in Tamms – Illinois’ official “supermax” prison modeled after Pelican Bay SHU. Tamms was closed down in January 2013 after a fifteen year long political and legal battle by prisoners, family members and activists. Several of the prisoners placed in the HSU at Menard are “jailhouse lawyers” – prisoners self-educated in the law who help other prisoners with legal work and challenge prison conditions.

“They won’t tell anybody why they are in Administrative Detention, let alone give them an informal hearing to contest the undisclosed allegations,”1 one Menard prisoner wrote. He said, “There are mice just running wild. They have 20 guys using one pair of fingernail clippers with no cleaning in between uses, there is absolutely no mental health screening or evaluation, nor do any mental health staff even make rounds.” Another prisoner said, “I’m a jailhouse lawyer. And [I] file/help other prisoners with their grievances and lawsuits. Because of that I was retaliated against and transferred to Menard and placed in the High Security Unit under Administrative Detention.”2

Since beginning the hunger strike, prisoners reported to attorney Alice Lynd (and published in the San Francisco BayView) that “officers shook down their cells and took any food they found. The hunger strikers were sent to see medical staff and charged $5 for medical treatment.”3 In 2000 the IDOC began charging prisoners $5 per incident to receive medical care – a direct violation of international law, including the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which states that prisoners’ medical “care and treatment shall be provided free of charge.”

Additionally, Lynd reported one prisoner was pushed down the stairs by two officers while handcuffed and then beaten.4 Officers pushing handcuffed and/or shackled prisoners down the stairs is a common form of retaliation in segregation units in Illinois prisons, as prisoners are never allowed to leave their cells without handcuffs and/or shackles.

*****

With the closing of Tamms – the most visible face of torture in Illinois’ prison system – prisoners were sent to other prisons where the practice of solitary confinement has been hiding behind older and less-scrutinized walls. Within weeks of Tamms prisoners being transferred to Illinois’ long-term disciplinary segregation prison in Pontiac, IL, nearly 50 prisoners began a hunger strike opposing the conditions there. A number of smaller and not well-publicized hunger strikes against the conditions at Pontiac have taken place since it was converted from a regular maximum security prison to long-term disciplinary segregation in the late-1990s.

Debate and struggle roil every day behind the prison walls about the repressive and degrading conditions and what to do about it – especially in solitary confinement. Far too often prisoners have little or no connection on the other side of the walls to expose the horrors of what they are facing – and to support them when they do organize to oppose those conditions.

Solitary confinement is specifically implemented to destroy people psychologically, emotionally and intellectually. It is a severely damaging and demobilizing form of torture that survivors never escape. Over 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

Mass incarceration, rooted in the foundational white supremacy of this country, is a response of the ruling class to the driving dynamics of capitalism-imperialism. The drive for ever greater profits has decimated inner city communities as factories uprooted and set up sweatshops abroad where they can even more brutally exploit workers than they can here – leaving generations of principally Black and Brown youth locked out of society who will never be meaningfully employed. It is also a conscious response to the revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s – implemented to contain and repress millions who this system has no future for and who could become the backbone of the struggle for a radically different and more liberated world for all humanity.

*****

The conditions and retaliation described by the men in Menard sound all too real and familiar to me. I spent over 6 years straight in indeterminate segregation in Pontiac – and most of my time there in the North Cellhouse.  It was under those same conditions that I became part of a new generation of prison-educated revolutionaries beginning to emerge within those concrete tombs. I firmly believe it will take revolution – nothing less – to end the crimes of this system, and that we can bring into being a society that values and meets the material, cultural and intellectual needs of all humanity – a communist world.

Last year Carl Dix, Clyde Young and I issued a call – An Appeal to the Brothers and Sisters Locked Down in this Society’s Prisons: Bear Witness to Torture in U.S. Prisons and to All Law Enforcement Abuse. I’d like to reiterate that call, which read in part:

“The world needs to know of the sadistic, systemic horror of long-term solitary confinement, which is enforced on more than 80,000 people in the U.S. prison system. We know that revisiting this can be difficult for those who are facing or have faced these conditions, but the truth must be laid bare for all. All of society needs to know of the racial profiling that sucked you into the pipeline to prison, of the horrific conditions everyone in prison endures and of the open discrimination formerly incarcerated people face after release. You are in a unique position to expose the lying justifications given by the authorities for what they are.”

“Send these stories to the Bear Witness Project of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Through this you will be opening the eyes of those who are shielded from the real situation in the inner cities and the actual conditions enforced in prison. And letting those caught up in the cycle of going in and out of prison know that what they’re up against are social problems, not individual ones, and that by standing up and resisting them together, we can change the way mass incarceration is looked at in society and contribute to bringing forward a movement that can end it.”

And I call on all people of conscience to support the prisoners and to step forward and follow the courageous example they are setting. Much love, respect and support to the brothers and sisters rising up from deep within the depths of this criminal system of injustice.

*****

Mail Bear Witness correspondence to:

PRLF 1321 N Milwaukee, #407 Chicago, IL 60622
or Stop Mass Incarceration Network P.O. Box 941, Knickerbocker Station, New York City, NY  10002-0900

For those outside the walls:
contact@PRLF.org

stopmassincarceration@gmail.com

Web: www.stopmassincarceration.org

Footnotes:

1.  “Locked-Up in ‘High Security Unit’ and Not Told Why, Prisoners Hunger Strike for Answer,” Ray Downs; Riverfront Times Blogs, January 21, 2014

2. Id.

3. “Update from Menard hunger strikers: We need outside support, force feeding threatened” Alice Lynd; San Francisco BayView, January 21, 2014

4. Id.

* Also published in Revolution newspaper online: Rising From the Pit: Illinois Prisoners Join National Upsurge of Resistance to Torture and Dehumanizing Conditions in U.S. Prisons,  January 27, 2014

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Revolutionary Gregory Koger Released from Cook County Jail

I’m back down after a long legal and political battle, including two weeks on hunger strike in Cook County Jail in solidarity with the California prison hunger strike. Got some reading and writing done as well. Will have more to say soon. Much love – Gregory

 

“I will continue to be on the front lines and continue to fight, and I know many of you will be there with me.” – Gregory Koger

 

Over 50 people came together in Chicago on Saturday, November 2 to celebrate Gregory Koger’s release from Cook County Jail. Gregory’s release came after he served the remainder of an outrageous sentence that should never have been imposed, for a political act that was never a crime. (See “Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail” for background.) The evening of music, hugs, and conversation was sponsored by the defense committee that has fought for his innocence and freedom for four years, warmly welcoming him back to the “outside” where he vowed to continue to fight to liberate humanity.

Sunsara Taylor, whose statement protesting censorship Gregory was filming when he was arrested, sent a beautiful statement.

Statement from Sunsara Taylor, sent to the celebration of Gregory Koger’s release:

I don’t know if this will reach you while you are all together celebrating—but either way I want to send the biggest virtual hug imaginable. I have been furious and agonized every day knowing that you have been unjustly and outrageously held behind bars and denied very basic freedoms. Yet, even behind bars your determination and strength and revolutionary understanding shined. Even as I know that millions of others remain in America’s hellholes and even though I know the world is teeming with unbearable and unnecessary suffering due to this outmoded, illegitimate capitalist-imperialist, life-crushing system we live under—my spirit is lifted and I am deeply happy to know that today you are out. Even more so to know that you are celebrating with people who know and love and deeply respect you. With people who have been touched by you and learned from your courage and strength. I am, as always, proud to count you as a friend and a comrade. It is great to have you back—we have much to accomplish together!

Until all are free,

Sunsara

A member of his defense committee, the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason, spoke for many when she said, “Speaking as a visitor to that hellhole, spending even one hour there was too much. How anyone incarcerated under those conditions could be expected to survive, much less be rehabilitated is unrealistic. Gregory did manage to survive and no doubt had some damned good discussions with his fellow inmates and will continue his fight against injustice.”

Gregory’s heartfelt talk was the highlight of the evening. We want to share this with the readers of Revolution, especially those who are locked down in the hellholes of this country:

“In talking to someone earlier tonight, I recounted that in the last 19 years of my life, I have had 9 months when I wasn’t in jail, in prison, on parole, on probation, or on bond. Including over half the time of the [seven years] since I’ve been out of prison has been spent fighting this case.”

“It didn’t surprise me what the criminal injustice system did in this case, but there were aspects that I think surprised all of us. The fact that I was charged with criminal trespass for just standing there holding an iPhone, which every legal scholar and lawyer we consulted with said there is no way that is trespassing; the fact they tried to hold me in contempt of court because my defense committee had a website that talked about the larger political questions related to this case; the fact that at the very end of the case, the judge issued a secret ruling without any notice to my attorney or myself that there was a hearing happening and then issued a warrant for my arrest. The fact that none of the substantive legal issues we raised were ever addressed by the court was not all that surprising to me because I know how the system works.”

“People have spoken about where I come from. It was very much in the conditions of torture, conditions in which tens of thousands of people in U.S. prisons are held in solitary confinement, where I began to really grapple with the broader questions of society, including why is the world this way. And that is where I ultimately came to conclude, through reading Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature, that there is absolutely no reason for this system to do what it does to people—billions and billions of people in the world—ruining their lives and offering them no hope whatsoever. There are the resources on this planet to feed, clothe, provide housing, healthcare, and education for everyone, and to provide intellectual and cultural life for the millions and billions of people who are systematically locked out of those realms. All that could happen, but it doesn’t because of the capitalist-imperialist system. But we can get to that world through revolution—nothing less. This is what I firmly believe.”

“During the course of this battle I have made friends with so many people who don’t all agree with what I believe, including many who do not agree with communism. But we have united together to oppose the glaring injustices of this system, of which one small part is this case we have fought for the last four years. To me this is an expression and an example of what needs to happen much more in society. An example of both the core strategic approach and outlook of the Revolutionary Communist Party—that we have to bring together people from the bottom of society and people from middle class backgrounds who don’t have the direct experience of that kind of oppression and injustice. We will never get to another world without people from the bottom and people from other parts of society being firmly committed toward humanity. We really had a great expression of that throughout the course of this case.”

“On a personal level, just seeing and knowing everybody here, many of whom I first met through the work of struggling against this case, people from many different backgrounds—writers, intellectuals, and people who don’t have a fucking thing. Artists like [the world-renowned jazz musicians] who are performing here tonight. Other people who know what torture is like [a friend at the party] who was tortured in Chile under Pinochet, who was out there fighting against the torture that’s happening to prisoners in solitary confinement in the U.S. People like me, and like this brother here, who was in the same prisons as me in the same conditions, who are now revolutionaries fighting against the system. I was on a hunger strike the first two weeks I was in jail in solidarity with the California prisoners’ hunger strike against torture…”

“I want to thank everybody. This has been a very trying and difficult four years, but we have built a tremendous amount of strength taking this on. On the biggest level in society, the core fault line contradictions that were embodied and encapsulated in this case—from the role of prisoners in this society, and mass incarceration, to the repression of voices of dissent and critical thinking. I will say that we lost the case legally, but we won it politically.” [cheers]

“This is a big inflection point, not the least for me. This has been a major component of the last 4 years. The last time I was in Cook County Jail three years ago there was a point when I was depressed, recognizing that the place they had me—in that jail cell—was exactly where they wanted me and people like me. But this time I didn’t get depressed, I got pissed off. My life will continue to be dedicated to fighting against this system and its outrageous manifestation of mass incarceration, against the degrading oppression of women and LGBT brothers and sisters; against the oppression of immigrants and all the things this system does to people here and around the world. I will continue to be on the front lines and continue to fight, and I know many of you will be there with me. So I want to thank everybody for coming out tonight from the bottom of my heart.”

Gregory asks that all those who wish to celebrate his release donate to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Thousands of dollars are needed to continue to send Revolution newspaper, BAsics, and other revolutionary literature to all the prisoners who are requesting it. Donate online at prlf.org. Or contact PRLF at:

1321 N Milwaukee Ave. #407, Chicago, IL 60622
773-960-6952  contact@PRLF.org

Originally published in Revolution newspaper – www.revcom.us

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,