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

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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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
 
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For the Record

We’ve had two different groups of pigs stop us on two occasions today, both times searching through the car & tearing shit up with no probabale cause whatsoever.

The first dude, after saying he was going to give us a “warning” for going 85 in a 70 mph zone, goes back to his car, runs our records (both of us had multiple felonies – none drug related), talks to some mofos on the radio & then comes back and tells us he has to have K9 search the car, and searched me personally by pat down and then went into my pocket. I had, and we had, nothing illegal on our persons or in the car. We go sit in the other pigs car while he searches ours for quite a while, then he comes back, asks my homie if he can give him his Miranda warning & ask him some questions – which he agrees to. Asks about an axe in the back of the car the we use for camping. And then he lets us go, with a written “warning.”

We make it to Springfield for the IDOC hearing about 15 mins late due to this bullshit stop and search, find out they played games on that hearing again and canceled it for the second time in a row with no prior notice – and both times we had several carloads of peeps who traveled from Chicago to Springfield to make sure they didn’t pull some slick shit and to make sure they know and see that significant and growing groups of people are opposed to the state of Illinois’ use of the torture practice of long-term solitary confinement in the IDOC, along with some other more minor issues with the rule changes. 

Later on, as we are leaving Springfield, right after we get on the road some undercover pigs pull us over in an unmarked Toyota truck. We have an almost identical repeat of the prior stop, except we had done no traffic violations at all when they stopped us. They tear up the car again, with no probable cause search us both and the car, find nothing again and let us go – after asking several questions that had no relevance to the stop whatsoever. Not even a pretense of giving us a traffic “warning” on paper. 

Something very weird about both of those stops – the second one in particular. In the 10 years I’ve been out of prison, these are the first times I’ve been stopped & harassed by the police while driving in Illinois.  Just need to document this shit – for the record. 

We’ve got a lot of shit we’ve been working on coming together now, and these political predators want to snake our ass… Who could possibly spend a whole career based on lying and fucking with people – and with the intention of sending people to prison for years & decades for bullshit, many times completely fabricated?  Sick fucking people. And the fucking “war on drugs” is such an unprecedented human rights disaster – how many lives ruined, lost? How many billions of dollars that could have been used to actually do something of social value? 

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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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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

 

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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

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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

 

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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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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.

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The Attica Rebellion: Its Legacy & the Prison Struggle Today

My friend Brian Nelson of Torture Survivors Against Solitary was part of a great panel last night at Loyola put together by Loyola NLG, the Uptown People’s Law Center, and the People’s Law Office –
The Attica Rebellion: Its Legacy & the Prison Struggle Today

The Attica Rebellion: Its Legacy & the Prison Struggle Today

Moderated by Michael Deutsch, Attica Brothers Lawyer

Heather Ann Thompson – author of “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and its Legacy”

Albert Jackson – Pontiac Brother

Alan Mills – Uptown People’s Law Center

Brian Nelson – Solitary Survivor and community organizer with Torture Survivors Against Solitary

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