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

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

 

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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:

 

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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

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Chicago Supports the September 9th National Prison Strike

September 9th National Prison Strike

From within the tombs and dungeons of the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration comes a Call from prisoners to rise up together on September 9th 2016 – the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion. As their Call states:

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

At a time when US police are killing three people every day, and a national movement for Black Liberation is being forged in the streets, men and women being held in horrendous conditions of imprisonment will be putting their lives on the line to stand against the state-sanctioned slavery of the New Jim Crow police state that farcically calls itself “the greatest country in the world.”

As someone who personally knows the living death of the US prison system – and who spent many years in solitary confinement in that system – I find it incumbent upon me to stand in solidarity with those brothers and sisters still locked down in those hellholes.

We will be marching in support of the September 9th National Prison Strike. On September 9th we will meet at the State of Illinois Thompson Center at 1pm and march to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). The Illinois Department of Corrections has administrative offices in the Thompson Center, and the MCC is a United States federal prison in the heart of downtown Chicago.

Other actions will be planned as well. If you or your organization is planning anything, please let us know so we can support it. I will post any further details here, as well as on the Torture Survivors Against Solitary website.

September  9th National Prison Strike flyer

Please join and spread the FaceBook event for the demo

 

 

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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

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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…

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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…

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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

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1000 Witness Slips to Support Ending Solitary Confinement in Illinois

Support the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act – HB5417 – by signing a witness slip for the hearings in the capitol tomorrow, April 20, 2016

http://tiny.cc/solitarybill

1000 Witness Slips for HB5417

1,000 WITNESS SLIPS FOR HB5417!
Let’s tell legislators that solitary is torture and it doesn’t belong in Illinois. Help us get to 1,000 people supporting HB5417!!!!

Click here to fill out a slip: http://tiny.cc/solitarybill

Section I, Identification: Enter your name, and Illinois address. You can enter “none” under “Firm/Agency” and “Title”.

Section II, Representation: If you’re part of an organization supporting the bill, write your org here. If not, write “self”.

Section III, Position: Select “Proponent”.

Section IV, Testimony: Select “Record of Appearance Only”.
Fill in the authentication code and check the box indicating you agree to their terms.

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A Drive Past Pontiac Prison

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