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

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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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

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