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

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

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



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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…
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



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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

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.


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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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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.


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


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I’m writing in solitary confinement.


With constant noise.

And walls.

Just walls.


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.





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





And your heart beats.

A name.


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.


In Remembering

you are forgetting

what you wanted to be

And does that life exist?


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


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?



By peddlers

of lies

and trash.


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


for everything

to be


In Whose Eyes?


At whose benefit?

For whose posterity?

From what other

lofty sounding

pile of shit


who lives



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.

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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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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

1000 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:

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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Gregory A.K.


Razor wire spirals twist in a timeless vortex, silently shredding any semblance of connection to the land beyond.  The Prison looms with haughty, disdainful contempt in his watchtower eyes for the tainted flesh he gluttonously gorges upon.  His ancient stoney visage stands weathered yet unperturbed by the feeble blows and curses hurled against the labyrinthine lattice work of cells undying, immortal torment for the wretched refuse ceaselessly cast out for his consumption.  Whether the agony he sucks out of the marrow of their souls delights him, I know not, though the vacant hunger within his bowels I am certain is never sated.


The shackles and handcuffs jangle loosely on my buck-twenty-five frame as I step into the maw of The Prison several weeks before my eighteenth birthday.  Masses of men walk with me, all of us being funneled in to be processed and broken down in his digestive dungeons.  I spot a man in perhaps his mid-twenties in prison blues who had been there for maybe several years.  “That guy is a prisoner,” my mind not-so-keenly observes, seemingly unconscious of the fact that I too was now a prisoner, sentenced at seventeen to serve more years than I had lived upon the earth within the rotting belly of this corpulent creature.


Pairs of elderly men with walkers and canes stand waiting in line, with no pretense of a “Colored Only” sign.  Hair white as the cotton some picked as boys, sharecroppers sons born under the shadow of a burning cross and swaddled in that same red white and blue flying above the prison.  Convicts no longer leased after capital’s inverted Great Migration to the global South from decaying urban wastelands of the New Jim Crow North, where slave patrols stop and frisk another generation lost.


Panthers hunted and killed paved the way for The Streets bastard progeny.  A future blazing in the eyes and hearts of a generation of youth snuffed out.  Malcolm and Fred, Kent and Jackson, My Lai, Attica, Wounded Knee, Jonathan then George.  A cruel wind blowing, a bleak landscape left in the wake of the storm.  Harsh rain watering a soil now fertile for carnivorous and poisonous foliage.  Across the prairies and plains living tombs are erected, prepared for boys and girls unborn.


A contraption that



Blood and Soul

Constrained within this curious cube

Ancient Mechanism

Steel teeth gnash

And solitude grinds

Like clockwork

Encrusted with blood and shit and cum

and the residue of youth consumed within the


Dividing in agony


These inhuman machines


2 AM.  My peaceful slumber rudely interrupted by repeated bellows that I had to get up and get dressed to go to work.  I refused to relinquish the warm embrace of blankets, dreading the cold night air outside, the wind that would whip through the windows for hours, as I tried to burrow and huddle beneath loose stacks of hundreds of plastic wrapped newspapers stacked to the roof in the back of the car.  But the blankets were ripped away, and I grudgingly arose to dress for the ride to the warehouse.  I wouldn’t willingly be getting up for school six hours later, either.


Time ticks in an empty warehouse, weary workers barely awake await the arrival of bundles of newspapers hot off the presses.  We scurry about in the nocturnal underbelly of society so that Those Who Matter have news of Important Things, sitting outside their doors when they arise and sip coffee harvested by children who will never play and laugh with the boy waiting in the warehouse.  Bundles lugged, papers assembled and stuffed into plastic, heavy laundry carts full of newspapers pushed and dragged outside into the night air to be crammed in hundreds into the back of cars and trucks.  Houses, apartments and hotels are visited in blistering snowstorms and summer thunderstorms with stories from a world painted in vibrant colors glaringly different from those moonlit mornings.


Homeless.  The threads begin to unravel, my precarious balance on the edge of society inching closer to a protracted free fall.  The weight of my worthlessness on the Scales of Justice alchemically transmuted into bars of iron and steel, my tomb awaiting with door ajar for that blind uncaring judgment sealing the boy’s fate.


Brass jackets spring loaded, seventeen copper-toned smooth-domed cold killas on the block.  Glock cocked.  Folks and People locked in perpetual mortal combat, every fatality not just a tragedy but an indictment. Of a system born in blood. A million bodies of naked Native children buried under mud.  Slave chains, stolen names, exploitative aims.



Red Light

Black and White

Sit Tight

Rear View

Peek A Boo

I See You

Comin’ Through

Lights Flash

On My Ass

Time to Dash

Hit the Gas

No Cell

Go to Hell

Nothing to Lose

Oh Well

Hoodie Up

Lights Out

High Speed



Stick-up split-up – loot goes one way, guns go another.  Headlights approach behind, a pistol pitched out the window.  Adrenaline still coursing kicks into overdrive when suspicions become certainty.  I sit in the back seat clutching my sawed-off. Should I or shouldn’t I?  It’s not a moral question but a tactical one purely of survival.  No way I’m letting this motherfucker take me.  The valueless outlaw life of a boy with no future reduced to immediate binary logic with only one outcome.  Driver pulls the car over, star spangled lights of the Law bursting in the night air behind us.  A silver starred nemesis strides forward, with the force and weight of a titanic beast, my finger poised above the trigger, annihilation impending for us both.  I bide my time behind the semi-fogged windows of the back seat and slip the shotgun under the front seat as he steps to the driver’s window.  After a few brief questions that aren’t addressed to me he walks away, oblivious of the fact that two lives were spared that night.


My finger squeezes the trigger, the darkness rent with tongues of flame and a deafening blast.  Pellets explode on sawed-off trajectories careening out in a flash.  Colliding constellations of crudely-drawn stars, a clash of pitchforks and crowns, Disciples and Kings of bastard lineage.  Tarnished mirror images stand in that moment, right and left merely a reflection of two boys the same.  Of the dangerous class.  The night shatters, shards scatter as the seeds of pasts and futures pierce the darkness and into flesh and bone.  My mirror counterpart clutches his arm as he falls to the ground, his blood trickling down the pavement.  The street stained with ruddy tears as I reload the shotgun and move swiftly down the asphalt rivers, the wail of sirens in the distance fast approaching.


Monochrome honeycomb kaleidoscope of sparse chambers refracting solitude, each identically reflected cell a unique snapshot of torment flash-frozen in the void of timeless eternity.  Screams reverberate through the cavernous cellhouse, a symphony of suffering punctuated with groans, moans, rage-filled bellows and the pounding of fists on walls.  Futile attempts to break the isolation, to escape the the phantasms conjured within the minds devoid of stimulus haunting the ceaselessly counting seconds of blank clocks, unnumbered and unseen.


Alone.  A dim light bulb’s weakly-glowing filament strains to illuminate the empty cell.  The angular geometry of concrete and steel sharply delineates this existence from the flow of life beyond.  Decomposing minds violently burst open along the adjoining rows of sepulchur, the filth of decay permeating the stale air.  A sack of flesh reduced to basic biologic functions on life-support, comatose convicts’ brainwaves flatlining.


Lightly running my fingertips over the concrete wall, I wonder how many other men have been here, how many other times someone has walked in and heard the metal door heavily slam shut behind them, to be left standing alone in this empty cell. Although I’m alone in the cell, a nonstop cacophony continuously bombards my ears. Other men, in other cells just like this one, strain against the solitude by calling out to each other; some to talk, others to argue, and some simply babble nonsensically to themselves.

As I gaze around at the sparse geometry of the empty chamber, I’m struck by the notion that this vacant cube of steel and concrete will be my abode for the foreseeable future. I might be in this particular cell for a week, a month, a year, but even if I’m transferred out of this cell, the next one will be almost exactly identical. Maybe it will have someone else’s name jaggedly carved into the paint underneath the bunk, maybe my next neighbor will spend all day and all night in a psychotic rage banging on the walls of his cell, maybe I’ll be in a cell with bars on the front as opposed to solid metal, but no matter what trivial differences may await me, the next cell will be just a carbon copy of my current crypt.

Twenty-four hours comprise a day, but time blurs out into timelessness without any environmental cues to differentiate day from night, light from darkness, winter from summer. Days, weeks, months, and seasons pass by while the cell remains the same. Brown leaves gently glide to the ground, the first tiny flakes of snow float past, pile up, then melt away as new green leaves spring forth, all beyond the walls and outside of my reality. Perhaps if I try to peek out of the sliver of a crack next to the cell door I can glimpse a small opaque window and I can tell that it’s morning by seeing the faint light beyond straining to penetrate the diabolic darkness within.

I lie on the bunk, staring up at a blank white ceiling, not wispy cotton-clouds stretched thin floating slowly across the pale blue sky, knowing that I cannot move more than a few feet in any direction. Instead of verdant fields of lush green grass beneath my toes, there will only be rough, gray concrete, well-worn by the soles of countless other men pacing the same few feet back and forth continuously. My skin won’t feel the gentle caress from the lips of a lover, only the jarring cold steel of handcuffs, chains, and shackles biting into the flesh.


Convicts collect dangerous contraband, cells stockpiled with caches of clips fully loaded with armor-piercing words.  Neurons being illegally modified to fire fully automatic, schematics shared from cell to cell.  Field manuals of class war filter in, former tactics fall away as revolutionary science begins to reveal a strategy for liberation.  A vision of a new world dawns, awakening humanity from the nightmare-riven slumber of American dreams.


That moment when constellations of history align, that clockwork mechanisms of myriads of gears – big and small, interconnect lives and streams of human experience – click into place and whir along in planetary synchronicity toward liberated possibilities…

In all my years of solitary, a confrontation like this (and ultimately much more than this) was exactly what kept me alive another second, minute, hour, day, month, year. Hundreds of armed cops, lined up, aiming assault rifles and sniper rifles at scores of unarmed men, women and children on that hot Ferguson August night. Standing there, on the front lines with the people, arms linked across W. Florissant Ave., the burnt husk of the QuickTrip store that had become the epicenter of resistance stood witness.

No one, myself included, could have predicted that it would be in Ferguson that the people rising up and refusing to accept another cold-blooded murder of another Black youth, would shift the course of the Empire. But in that muggy Missouri summer heat, shit began to get real hot.


Tools of oppression are never far away. Perhaps offscreen, behind the scenes. But their proximity is intimate. Handcuffs, chains, shackles. Pepper spray, tear gas. Riot shields, tactical teams. Shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles.


Razor Wire Infests My Veins

My Heart Strains

To Beat Free of Steel Bars

Tonight The Streets Are Ours


There was a moment

When the crushing stasis

And grinding normality



Where History

Was Being Written

In Images

Of hands

Held aloft

Fists raised

Mother’s tears

Feet marching

Through tear gas

Confronted with

Assault rifles

And riot shields


Mass Media Molotovs



The Lies

Of Empire


Anyhow, Ferguson. Well there’s a lot of levels of things with that, as with all things. I mean what other response does a white supremacist late-modern-empire-beginning-its-decline have to race and class oppression unrivaled in history? The Unites States wrote the book on white settler colonial apartheid. The fear of the dangerousness of oppressed people coming to greater consciousness – of their own oppression and who their real enemies are – and the possibility and potential of unity and organization of those people against their oppressors is the foundation of “policing” in this country. And preventing a movement of those people from actually cohering is at the heart of every response the ruling class has brought forward in policing. It’s all aimed at keeping people in a state of fear and suppressing resistance and organizing – even the remote potential of such. And that shit has been much more potent – and increasingly less remote – in the last year or so than it has been in a long time. Frankly, thanks to the people in the streets of Ferguson who continued to come out and confront that repressive armed force of the State day after day, with those images radiating out to the world both exposing the lies of U.S. empire and inspiring the world with their courageous determination.

One of my friends (also named Brian, oddly enough, but who I met in prison and was a pen-pal of mine when I was in solitary) posted something on FaceBook with one of the photos they had of me on the cover of this St. Louis newspaper in a keffiyeh in a cloud of teargas in Ferguson and he said, something to the effect of “This is my friend Gregory who became immune to the effects of tear gas in the IDOC.” Well, not quite immune but certainly I’ve developed a fair tolerance to some implements of chemical warfare due to the tactical team coming into those cell houses sometimes daily pepper spaying someone before their “cell extraction.”

Of course they’re connected – Pelican Bay, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Fallujah, Jenin, Ferguson, Wounded Knee, Attica, every slave revolt and rebellion crushed, every village burned – concentrations of the political power of empire growing behind the barrels of a lot of guns.


Visions of death slowly materialize in my mind. Bathtubs of clear water turning red. Pristine white sheets covered in blood. Wrists dripping, razor sliced flesh agape. These images feel more compelling than the likely manner, though.


Serious questions of revolutionary strategy roiled in my mind as I walked the Vegas Strip. As I pushed past the slow walkers and drunk dudes and ladies, my mind alternated between the dialectic of the personal and political. Occasionally I would pull the Gatorade bottle of tequila out of my back pocket and drink as I pondered the situation. Every day my mind would confront the bathtub that beckoned me to release my life blood into it’s water.

I like baths and showers. In prison the notion of a bath was quite enticing. Hot water enveloping your body… In fact there were a few meditations I did in prison that explored the body relaxing in warm water.

But my thoughts were caught up in the moment. I don’t know that Vegas is all that different than the rest of America, except in particulars.Yes there a number of things here that make things more interesting. I had spent most of the evening playing video blackjack with a revolving crew of people. A guy from Tokyo was perhaps the most interesting to me. He spoke little English, so I dutifully conveyed to him a small selection of the most important words pertaining to our situation: “Bullshit!” “Motherfucker!” “Bust!” I had quite an affinity for Japan as a kid, and the notion that I would be sitting in Vegas playing blackjack with a dude from Tokyo seemed quite ironic and unusual, given my many years behind the walls.


Our fingertips touched, across carnal cards commoditizing flesh. She might have been younger than me, but not much. One of the only women passing out those cards, certainly one of the only younger women. Much younger than the woman old enough to be my grandmother who some dude was trying to forcibly “return” one of the cards to earlier that night, to which I finally had to say, “Just give it to me then” and he finally left her alone.

I could give a fuck less about the content of the cards, in an immediate sense. I’ll skip the political analysis at this juncture. And not to read way to much into this minor passing moment, or fetishize the interaction, but I felt more of a connection in that momentary brush of fingertips passing beneath the neon lights than in almost any other time here. Of course, aren’t almost all interpersonal interactions more of a Roarschach test than anything? But I wondered about her. She likely hadn’t done time behind the walls, but her father, brother, uncle, or boyfriend probably had. How much do they make, passing out those cards? Probably next to nothing. Not much different that the credit card ads I had passed out a few times as a kid, which I ultimately never got paid for. Some fucking rent-a-cop chased me off after I put a bunch of them under the windshields of cars in a mall parking lot. And I quit after that. But never got paid.


Numbers and icons roll past on three wheels

My life flashing against their random rotation

Cylinders spinning

Which one has the bullet?

$1 turns the wheels once more

But for how much longer?

Must hit that million dollar jackpot

Of worthless words and sentences dropping

Perhaps it will pay off

With or without a bang


Everything feels unusual. Writing, here, sitting underneath palm trees, typing on an iPhone in front of a pool. What could be more of a contrast to writing with a “security” pen on top of a worn-out mattress on a steel bunk in a maximum security prison? Hard to think of a greater contrast, except perhaps the writing I tried to do in Mexico under similar circumstances except with the pool replaced by a beach & the Gulf of Mexico.

Walking through this casino, flashing lights everywhere. Dudes in suits and parades of women in miniskirts all night. Not quite the same as parades of convicts in drab prison jumpsuits and handcuffs & shackles. Coming back to a hotel room overlooking the Vegas Strip, two huge beds awaiting. Shower whenever I want. Can take an elevator downstairs and get food or drinks at any moment… Yeah, nowhere near those cells, those chow halls, those yards, those Streets.


Afternoon summer sun shines in through the window across the pristine white tiles of the shower. Quite a different vividness even compared to the dull-mirror stainless steel shower walls like they had in Pontiac prison. A steel-toed boot silently crushes my keffiyeh to the floor in the next room as my blood, deep red, splatters across the white tiles from tactical team bullets ripping through my flesh.

I watch the clouds hovering above the city buildings out of the shower window. The white tiles remain pearly white. Flashback? Flash frozen future photo? Flash that shit outta my head, whatever it is.


Late afternoon sunset above the cityscape outside my shower window. I’ve lived for years in a concrete tomb without any window, period. My apartment shower has a window, with fresh air breezing in, that I can stand under the hot, steamy water and look out across the city. A presaging scent of fall wafts in, putting my mind back to being on the yard in Joliet prison in the first fall I was locked up. That faint fall scent always reminds me of that prison yard. And trick-or-treating with my cousin as a kid. And now, standing in the shower of my apartment, contrasting the fact that I can look out of a window in my shower when for years I lived in concrete and steel cells with no window whatsoever.


I slowly return to consciousness from slumber, immediately expecting my surroundings to be the concrete walls of a prison cell. I glance over and see my friend asleep on my couch across my apartment from me. We had spent most of the night talking about her trip to Palestine (that I nearly joined her on), writing ideas, prison life and incidents, and “From Prison to the Penthouse” – a must-see reality tv dating show starring myself seeking love and romance (that I might probably should seriously consider putting together). Not that different from many discussions I’ve had with many celly’s in many cells. Except I was not in a cell. And none of my cellys were women. I woke up at least one other time that night, immediately upon returning to consciousness expecting to be in a cell. But my friend remained across from me sleeping on the couch until she woke me up to let me know she was leaving, and if I needed any more support for my deposition in one of my lawsuits against Cook County Jail later that afternoon to let her know.


It was something of a ritual, I suppose. Any new cell you were put into, especially if you were ridin’ solo without a celly and especially in seg, you had to do a full clean down of that motherfucker. Food detritus, dried blood, feces, dried pepper spray, who the fuck even knows (or wants to really know…) what all layers of desiccated remains of human habitation remained encrusted in the slow-grinding teeth of The Prison. The bleached-white tiles of my bathroom seemed almost sacred in contrast to the dull monochrome grey and browns of the multifarious “correctional facilities” I’ve been held captive in for what seems like most of my life. Since I was sixteen years old, I’ve had about just over two and a half years that I’ve not been in prison or in jail, on parole, probation or on bond fighting a case or political prosecution. I’m thirty-seven now. This bathtub needs cleaning. No way I’m facing that without both a real and ritual cleansing.


The most translucently icy blue water, temperature barely tolerable to the touch, envelopes my feet. I sit, notebook in hand, perched on the side of the tub before settling in. Immersing myself to the waist, my legs outstretched floating in that warm-hot water, puts me back in mind to one of the yoga meditational relaxation exercise I used to do in prison. Back, in fact, to some of my first experiments with the practice when I was in Danville prison.

Ritual ablutions. Amidst the smokey incense and herbs, black and mild, ceremonial implements imparted by my Shamanic Elder who accompanies me on my journey, I sit in the tub. Dates and dried mango, spirits of blue agave, prepared the palate. Blood In My Eye on the floor, pale water drifting against the pearly tub not marred by the bloodbath presaged to me in Las Vegas. Just a sumptuous hot bath in my apartment in the city. Major qualifiers, for my context. But… can I do this?


Fully immersed in the tub, in some ways not so much different than the practices in my mind of immersing myself in water in prison, I recline. White laser Rosicrucian rose-sigils seem to timewarp inwardly upon the white noise of my eyelids.

This bathroom is barely smaller than most cells I was in. My studio apartment outside the bathroom is not much bigger than about three cells.

Settling back and relaxing in the tub, not so much unlike The Dude in The Big Lebowski, without the German nihilists. Or FBI SWAT teams busting down my door. No tactical cell extraction team bout to pepper spray me and run up on me to drag me out of a cell. No tear gas. No mean muggin’ about to lead to fist fights, shank games or gun play.


I’m sitting with my arms on my knees in the middle of the tub as the now-lukewarm water slowly empties down the drain. Blue-black tattoos, in the Latin Solve et Coagula, inscribed on the inside of my forearms, contrast with the flesh, tub and tiles. Breaking myself down, analyzing, resolidifying, recreating. Another season begins, the old begins to wither, new shoots begin to take root. The triple-dark void of Chaos returns all unto it’s womb and transmutes old life into new, old ideas into new, old places and times and moments into other moments and times and places.

As I raise myself from the tub and look out the window, dark storm clouds approach. Reality often does not give us quite the symbolism we may be looking for. I feel perhaps more relaxed and renewned than I have ever felt before. Still uncertain. Still bumbling about in the darkness trying to find my way, my next foothold, my next step. But breathing. And thinking. And writing.


“Oh, I’ve got that book on my bookshelf!” I think to myself, for one of the first times in my adult life. Just as my eyes scanning the shelves in poor lighting locate Neuromancer between Les Miserables and the Criterion Collection DVD set of Brazil, I heard a crash from the bathroom and notice that the foreboding thunderstorm I had seen out the bathroom window was now fast up my building. I had to run to the bathroom to shut the window, not before savoring the scent and sprinkles of rain coming through the screen as I looked out at the stormy gray cauldron of clouds outside.


Subway cars extend to infinity

Each car a microcosm

Of isolated yet interconnected lives

“I could go for both,“ I thought. The hair-flipping and twirling, the expressiveness at least seemed to indicate some recognition on the part of the young women who walked onto the L before me and sat across from me as I stood near the door.

Argyle. The law office I used to work at was right over here for a while. Seems light-years away from where I’m at now. Same train, different universe.

Long brown-blonde hair flowing, one of the women rushes out past me laughing, as we are stuck waiting on another train to pass. Throwing something in the garbage, I think. Then she rushes back into the train car and sits down again.

Synchronized typing on cellphones. That very-this-decade pervasive social passtime. As I scan the train car I see a Starbucks hat sitting perched on someone’s head, farther down someone is wearing a Nirvana t-shirt with a Star Wars handbag.

And then, as she twirled her hair around her finger, she slowly but quickly turned to the side a little bit, smiled and gently bit her hair between her teeth.


And today I found out she died. As a cool fall breeze blows in through the window, I look out at the night sky and the lights of the city. Other apartments, thousands of lives. Seasons’ definitely changing. I am more alone now than perhaps ever. Those last tenuous familial bonds – or what passed for them, in my life – now gone.

It was quite an enjoyable day, actually, before I got that phone call. Caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen since before I was on the hunger strike in Cook County Jail and in Ferguson and all that shit. Walked on the beach, she asked me some questions from her time interning with the public defenders office about the frustrations and sexual harassment she experienced there.  Guys in holding cells with a bunch of other dudes standing right there whipping their dicks out at her. Some of her experiences writing to a few guys who were in solitary, and the psychological complexities of those kind of relationships with people.

No Caller ID. I’m not answering this phone call. This is your system doing this, I don’t want any part of it. Property relations, bureaucratic formalities. None of that matters to me. I’m trying to appreciate a life, and a small set of lives interconnected. Not by blood, but out of a desire for family. I had no choice in the matter, of course. But whatever the difficulties and dysfunctionalities, or personal shortcomings, they tried. They worked. There were often times that they did little – if anything – else. We traveled some, and had some small niceties here and there, probably many times more out of my socially-conditioned “wants” for toys or trivial status objects than theirs.

We were different, though. And I cannot really fault them, as individuals, for any of that. My mom struggled tremendously with words and memory because of being hit by a car when she was a kid. I called my mom on my dad’s birthday ten months after he died. She didn’t know it was his birthday nor did she know who I was. My dad read some, but he had his own struggles, with weight, and how being overweight affected him and how people saw him. Not that he would ever talk about it.

And that was one of the hardest things for me, our biggest difference. I want to understand, to interrogate myself, my thoughts, feelings, desires; to communicate with others, to share ideas and stories and laughs. To try to have some shared connections and memorable moments with others. If I hadn’t organized the memorial for my dad, there wouldn’t have been one. If I hadn’t spoken in remembrance of his humanity, no one would have. And I hope, before my time, that I can write a few words in remembrance of my own humanity.


Did not expect to be taking this trip, on this overcast fall day. Do I really need to walk past two police cars in the three blocks it takes to walk to the L from my apartment?

Woodstock. No, not the famous one. The one in farm country Illinois where one side of my adoptive family ended up. I narrowly made the train, with only minutes to spare. The city looks eerie through the blue-green tinted train windows smeared with grime. Today would have been her birthday. Instead I’m making her funeral arrangements.

Park Ridge. The train takes me through places I haven’t spent time in since my childhood. One summer when I was about ten years old I ran away, among other reasons, to go to a “date” I had scheduled at a swimming pool where we had a previous date ice skating. Des Plaines public library has a multi-story new building. I read a lot of books as a kid from the previous venue of that library. The theater is apparently shut down. The second story martial arts studio I attended when I was about four or five is still there.

A mom and her son on the train laugh as they play with an orange dinosaur. Mount Prospect. I used to by comic books at a store right near here, and steal Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars from a store a little further down the road. Suburban Chicago. Used to deliver newspapers in the middle of the night to many houses and apartments around here before I was even ten years old. Arlington Heights. I used to take Tae Kwon Do blocks from the train station here at that age too, and our martial arts studio was even in some town parade they had here once. Arlington Park. Horse racing.

Pumpkins and corn stalks. My grandma & grandpa used to have a huge pumpkin pile every year at their garden center. Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. One year I was traumatized by a guy who worked there in a scary mask – I ran under my grandma’s kitchen table and refused to leave from under it all day.

Maybe the physical distance made it easier. Or the years of isolation. But then when I begin  thinking of my mom lying dead on the floor, I can’t help but think of the boy running in tears trying to escape the cruel lash of the leather belt, the anger, the rage. The days I lay on our floor crying from her blows. Nothing I did was deserving of that. I couldn’t escape those memories when my dad died either, as I stood crying in the shower as I prepared to make his funeral arrangements. That very act, the tears, the emotions rooted, intertwined, tangled and strangled in that abusive relationship, fused and frozen in my mind.


I’m sitting at the end of my block looking out over Lake Michigan, waiting to sign a check for my lawyers – and good friends – to get paid for the lawsuit we won against Cook County Jail banning all newspapers for 30 years. 70 degrees in late October is quite a feat for Chicago weather. But I’m living on stolen land, not by my own choice, an unwilling subject of white settler colonialism in North America.

Yesterday dirt from this ancient land slipped through my fingers onto my parents casket now resting in a pit dug into the soil. Together again, for better or worse. Not quite sure which of those prevailed, but there they are now.

And I alone again, as always.


I keep expecting it to end at any moment. That it’s not real, or at least so unreal that it’s infinitesimally brief existence renders it as though a figment of my imagination. Queen size bed, grey Egyptian cotton sheets with a fine-lined interlocking pattern, nothing extravagant but man, so unreal. Cum and sweat stained, flat-as-a-steamroller-lived-on-top-of-it prison shithole mattress it ain’t.

I’m used to living with, expecting that everything I have will be taken in an instant. That everything I believed was a lie. That I have no home, I have no future, I have no significant possessions. I have friends, and memories, and experiences. I’ve been in some shitty places and I’ve been in some beautiful places. I’ve devoted myself to resistance to injustice and to liberation, at times from dire necessity and others just because what the fuck else would I be doing?

And yet… I’m thirty-seven years old and this is the first time in my life I’ve lived on my own, on the grid, in an apartment of my own. I’ve barely been functional this whole year. You’d think perhaps that people you’ve known for years might appreciate the significance and difficulty that this would present to someone such as myself.

But nah. It’s all good. I’ll figure it out.


I still didn’t think of the couch as “mine.” It was a couch, in a room that I happened to be staying in. Kinda like “a cell.” Not “my cell” by any fucking means. Like the time they took all my property when I was in ad seg in the Lake County Jail when I was 17 and refused to clean the cell that I was held captive in. It was not “my cell” motherfucker, and fuck cleaning your cell. Your government’s cell. Your system’s cell.



On the most







And Bone





My Heart




A Dream

Of Grey Dust

A Hurricane




On Water


A Prophecy







And Death


I Shiver

In Silence


My Skin


Cold Flames

Of Oblivion


Every day, the question

Unasked, unwanted, unuttered

But posed

In myriads of moments



As they may seem

To the casual observer

But there are none





The Question


On A

Collision Course



And I

Don’t Know





Nanoseconds Drip By

In an Eternity

Every One

A Lifetime

Of Solitude


I Wonder

If I’ll Ever

Be Human



I Wonder

How Long

Can I Continue?

But I Won’t

Let Them




I Always


The Cell

To Be

In the Cell

The boy


In the Cell


I wake up


To Be

In A Cell



By Concrete

And Steel


My Spirit


Razor Wire


My Soul

On Endless Days

In Identical


With No End


A World Exists


People Live

And Have Joy

And Laughter and Love



I’m Trying

To Find

That World


All I See

All I Feel

All I Know

Is the Cell


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A Drive Past Pontiac Prison

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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.


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


  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.


  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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A Few Thoughts

In prison, if you’re not a complete idiot, you recognize rather quickly that it is wise to refrain from putting things on paper. Especially when you know that things can always be twisted by the administration to put you in a more fucked up place.

I spent my first Christmas in prison when I was 18 – I had spent the previous Christmas when I was 17 in the county jail just before going to trial from solitary confinement and being sentenced to 20 years in prison for a gang-related shooting. I was in Joliet prison at the time – if you’ve seen The Blues Brothers, it’s the prison Jake gets out of in the beginning of the movie. Joliet prison is a medieval-castle-looking monstrosity that was built by convicts in 1858 – prior to the Civil War!

Photo Attribution By I, Daniel Schwen, <a href="" title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>,

Photo Attribution By I, Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 3.0,

It was also the last max joint that still had college classes at the time. I got my GED within a few months of being there, they said I got the highest score on the test that they’d seen in years, and the GED teacher asked me to work for him as a teacher’s aid. I found the notion of working for the prison that was holding me captive to be a patently absurd idea, but given that he was a pretty nice guy and seemed to genuinely care about the guys getting some semblance of education in his class, I reluctantly agreed to try it out. That lasted a couple weeks before I was sent to seg for some stupid shit. I think the college classes I was taking went out the window then too. Plus I got bored with the stupid homework, which I’ve always detested – pointless busywork. They had some graduation party for the GED class too, where they let people come in from the streets and had nice food and whatnot – I refused to even go to that shit. I didn’t get my GED to “impress” anyone in the system and I certainly wasn’t interested in legitimizing the institution holding me captive.

Gregory Koger GED Transcript Joliet Prison

Gregory Koger GED Transcript Joliet Prison

At Christmas time my grandma, being the kind soul that she was, decided to send me and my celly at the time Christmas cards with money orders for a few bucks. I don’t remember the exact amount, could have been $10 or $25 or something like that. And we both were served “tickets” from the administration of the prison for “trading and trafficking” – because my grandma decided out of the kindness of her heart to send me and my celly Christmas cards with a couple bucks to both of us.

Just one example of how a tender, kind, humane gesture was criminalized by the “authorities” of the “correctional” department of the state of Illinois.

So, I had kept a long practice of not writing things down on paper, because the prison administration could take anything and turn it into some “infraction” if some petty motherfucker with nothing better to do with their time decided that they wanted to fuck with guys who “The People of the State of Illinois” deemed guilty of some “offense” worthy of imprisonment.

I know I should probably be spending more time putting some of this writing into a format that will be useful for the book, but if I never make it to the point where anything I get written actually makes its way into a piece of literature that is deemed worthy of being printed in ink on dead trees by whoever decides such things, then none of this shit is gonna matter any way.

So this will be what it will be. And frankly, there’s a lot of shit that I need to get out of my head. I’ve made both some serious attempts and made some serious progress in getting real work on the book underway. But I’ve also realized that given where I’m at and what I’m dealing with, this process is going to be longer than I’d like or expected. And whether I want to be ok with that or not, I have to be ok with that because that is the reality of what I’m dealing with in my life.

And to me writing is a social act. It’s meant to be shared. If I keep everything in my head, it’ll never have a chance of being shared, or be of any value whatsoever to someone, somewhere, even if it’s only as an example of what not to do. But nothing else really seems to be working.

And I’ve missed just being able to try to work through some of my thoughts on my website. There were some real, legitimate strategic reasons why I perhaps should have taken some more care and thought to what I was writing here prior to my lengthy struggle taking on the political prosecution initiated by the “Ethical Humanist” Society of Chicago in conjunction with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Skokie police (and whoever else had input in it). But there were also other less than healthy and legitimate reasons that led to curtailing my use of the one significant place where I could write in a public forum (even if no one ever reads my website) and work through some things in my head.

And at a time in my life when I’ve been attempting to take some very initial steps of doing things most people do in the years that I spent as a teenager in prison, as well as attempting to recover from years in prison and solitary confinement as well as said multi-year political prosecution and being locked up again, I’ve had both my adoptive parents die. And a number of people who allegedly were friends and comrades of mine have shown quite clearly that that was not in fact the case.

So in many ways I’ve been more isolated than I’ve been in a long time. Some good friends and comrades of mine have continued to stand with me, and that has been tremendously important and something I’m quite grateful for. But having both of the people who were as close to parents as I’ll ever have die within 10 months of each other, and having a large number of people that you’ve worked closely with for many years essentially ex you out on some pretty seriously ridiculous pretense – AFTER I have spent years disregarding my own personal issues and health in order to be involved in the broader struggle against the many injustices of this system, and been on the front lines in that struggle many times… Yeah, not the most helpful combination of things for me to have to deal with by myself when I’m already deep in a fucked up hole from being locked up and tortured for years.

Hearing about MarShawn McCarrel‘s death on Monday night was quite hard to take. The fact that no one else I was with said one word about it, and didn’t even seem to know about it, made it even harder. I was down at the University of Illinois in Champaign because a good friend of mine, Brian Nelson, was invited down there to speak Tuesday and Wednesday about both his experience in solitary and the work he does with Uptown People’s Law Center and helping other prisoners and their families fight against the criminal system of injustice in the United States.

It’s hard to talk about that experience. Frankly, most of the time that I’ve spoken publicly about it I speak more about the broader political history and agenda of solitary and the need to fight to end it rather than the specifics of how it affected and continues to affect me. And I’m quite disturbed by the paucity of serious criticism of the pervasive use of torture in the form of long-term isolation in solitary confinement that the United States is using on tens of thousands of men, women, and children on any given day. Even groups and people who do a lot of important work around mass incarceration have, in my estimation, been far too complacent in accepting the crumbs of “reform” on what is torture. You cannot be taken seriously – not by me, at least, or anyone with consistency of principles –  if you applaud torturing a few less people, or banning a torture practice for juveniles but continuing it for adults.

And, as we continue to see, the police murder of people of color has not abated one iota since those nights a year and a half ago when the people in Ferguson really put this struggle on the map internationally. Even with all the important and militant actions that many people have bravely and courageously been doing since then, risking their lives and health and futures – including protestors like Josh Williams (a young brother I’m deeply honored to have met and to have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with on the front lines in Ferguson) spending more time in jail for protesting than any one of the pigs who killed Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, or Eric Garner have spent.

If any other government was murdering it’s own citizens every single day – on video, in public, in utterly outrageous and disgusting circumstances – that government would be the target of an international campaign of condemnation, it would be considered a rogue nation, it would have sanctions levied against it and its leaders would be criminally charged – and probably an international military coalition would come in and take out that government. The United States is doing that and much more every single day. Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, is barred by the U.S. government from investigating the torture practices of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. These are life and death daily realities for tens of millions of people of color – Black folks in particular. This is utterly illegitimate and must be stopped – now.

This isn’t meant to be some super-serious analysis or fully developed critique. Things have been quite hard for me and hearing about MarShawn made the day much harder, juxtaposed with some of the discussions and things I’ve been dealing with, it just made me feel it was way past time I tried to write, more or less unfiltered, on my website and try to get some of this shit out of my head.

Because as many times as I’ve tried to explain to even some dear friends of mine that I feel both care about my wellbeing and have some real understanding of solitary, almost no one gets how seriously this shit affects us every moment of every day. And I was attempting to have a serious discussion about this with some of my friends and that conversation got sidetracked into a different discussion about respectability politics and some other shit. Which in a certain sense is fine, but on another level I really felt like even that was an example of how when I was trying to get some shit out of my head about how all of this is affecting me, and trying to share with some friends of mine about that, that point got completely subsumed in another separate discussion on respectability and language (which in and of itself was not necessarily a bad thing to discuss).

Anyhow, I gotta start getting more of this shit out of my head… So maybe I’ll be on here a little more frequently.

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Laquan McDonald, Ferguson, Resistance & Liberation – A Discussion on Miss Geraldine Smith’s Radio Show

Miss Geraldine Smith Radio ShowHad a very serious and heavy conversation last night on Laquan McDonald, Ferguson, Resistance & Liberation on Miss Geraldine Smith’s Radio Show. Was a pleasure and honor to sit with brothers and sisters who have done time behind those walls, now on this side fighting in the struggle together. Thanks to Brian Nelson of Uptown People’s Law Center and Roosevelt Burrell for inviting me. I had just come back from out of town and didn’t know I would even be speaking, and the show is fairly freewheeling, but I tried to make some serious, salient points. As did all of the guests. We had some differences on ultimately what it is going to take to address this, but a real agreement that people need to continue to come together and stand up, that this system cannot keep doing what it is doing to people. Any system that murders people on a daily basis is completely illegitimate. We will not be swayed by frantic calls for calm in the face of these daily murders by the enforcers of this system, or backroom deals with those responsible for the policies and practices that count the lives of Black folks as less than worthy of the same humanity and respect that every person deserves. We will continue to stand firmly for liberation, and against the daily State violence inflicted by the U.S. upon us here and on our brothers and sisters around the world.



Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 11-22-15

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