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, along with Dr. Mario Gonzalez, are 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.
University of Chicago
The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
5733 S University Ave.
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
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.
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
Earlier this year the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act was introduced in the Illinois legislature. This bill, which was drafted in conjunction with a number of groups who oppose torture and the deplorable conditions in US prisons, would have severely restricted the use of solitary confinement in all prisons, jails, immigrant detention prisons etc in Illinois by reducing the amount of time any person could be held in isolation to 5 days in any 6 month period.
This bill had bipartisan support and a number of torture survivors who spent many years in solitary confinement in Illinois, as well as people with loved ones in solitary confinement, put themselves through significant retraumatization by speaking out about the conditions they faced in solitary confinement, including speaking at hearings at the Capitol in Springfield, IL.
The John Howard Association opposed the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. The John Howard Association, in opposing a bill that would have drastically reduced solitary confinement in Illinois and would have been one of the most restrictive limitations on solitary confinement in the entire country, contacted legislators and organizations to defeat the bill. As if that weren’t bad enough, the John Howard Association used talking points that were identical to frivolous talking points put forward by the Illinois Department of Corrections, who also were vehemently against the restrictions on the use of torture in the form of solitary confinement in Illinois.
The John Howard Association has a long history of collaborating with the Illinois Department of Corrections against the interests of people incarcerated in Illinois. But the John Howard Association’s two-faced backroom machinations opposing a bill that would have drastically reduced the use of solitary confinement in Illinois is beyond reprehensible.
Those of us who have spent many years in solitary confinement under conditions that are categorically considered torture under international law, cannot remain silent in the face of this. We cannot allow an organization that collaborates with the Illinois Department of Corrections to continue to farcically misrepresent itself as a “watchdog” and raise money off the misery of men and women who they have no concern for.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
NB – The following photo can only be appropriately viewed while listening to 2Pac’s Picture Me Rollin’ Roll Call – gregory_a_k
Its interesting reading and its all about a Lawsuit settlement that has been in the Courts for years. Strangely, as I read this report there is no mention of any of the Great Attorneys and Law Firms that gave so much time, effort and themselves fighting for the voiceless and in cases the helpless men and women suffering in Illinois Prisons. I asked several people to read the report and asked them who do you think fought this lawsuit and everyone had the same opinion (John Howard Assoc.).
Then I asked why they thought that and they again responded the same, there are repeated statements like JHA has been pushing for these changes for years, If you have any questions about the case please contact John Howard Association.
Interesting that there is no mention of the actual Attorneys from the Rasho case. And let’s be fair: JHA did not say specifically that they were a part of this case or changes. But they sure don’t give credit to those that actually were. JHA did write this report and they are willing to answer any questions about the case even though they had absolutely nothing to do with the case at all.
Then again it seems to be a common practice of certain groups to mislead donors into thinking that they actually had something to do with significant changes that affect groups that are suffering for financial gains. This is so misleading!
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.
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:
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
On Friday July 1, 2016 the Illinois Department of Corrections released new proposed regulations that apply to the grievance procedures and disciplinary actions. After reviewing the grievance portion again there is nothing that addresses the issue that is heard over and over year after year: disappearing grievances. Every report written about Illinois institutions brings up the problems with grievances never being responded to, being delayed, Counselors “misplacing” grievances and the plain out problem of IDOC employees covering up for each other by throwing grievance away.
The U.S. Court of Appeals (7th Cir.) as well as lower U.S. Courts have repeatedly issued opinions that slam the interference with access to grievances procedures in Illinois prisons that are meaningful. Due to this Courts have been forced to hold Peevy hearings on a lot of case to address the issue of exhaustion of grievances and interference with the procedures. Several years ago proposed new regulations were submitted to IDOC that addressed these issues, yet with the change of Administrations they have been shelved. This issue directly affects the Constitutional Right of meaningful access to the Courts by those incarcerated.Further because of these problems tax payers have to again pay the cost of these extra hearing as well as the cost of Attorneys to address the issues.
The new change proposed does not address the problems with Illinois prison system and the systematic and routine interference with access to the Courts. We should all challenge this farce and encourage IDOC to enact Rules and Regulations that create a meaningful grievance procedure. We have 45 days to submit written objections to the proposed Regulations!