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


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

Chicago Supports the September 9th National Prison Strike

September 9th National Prison Strike 2016

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.

September  9th National Prison Strike flyer

Please join and spread the FaceBook event for the demo

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

Chicago Police Torture Survivor Mark Clements Says the Reparations Package Remains An Injustice! – by Mark Clements

Mark Clements was 16 years old when Chicago police officers took him to an interrogation room and beat him until he falsely confessed to setting a fire that killed four people. Though his past was checkered, Clements hadn’t set the fire and he told as much to the Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney who came to oversee his confession. After the lawyer left the room, the officers returned and beat Clements again. They grabbed his testicles and squeezed until Clements once again agreed to confess. This time around he signed his name to it.

While it might sound like a story from Homan Square, Chicago’s police “black site” recently unearthed by news sources, Clements arrest took place over 34 years ago. On June 25, 1981, he joined the ranks of more than 200 black men and women who were tortured by police commander Jon Burge and his “midnight crew” of detectives on Chicago’s South Side from 1972-1993. Though the Homan Square reveal shocked the country, many local activists were unsurprised to hear that Chicago’s old police torture tactics had found a new home.

Since the release of Clements he have fought often to bring Burge and other cops that mistreat alleged criminal suspects inside police stations to justice. Not many people within the criminal justice system believed in my story that I was taken to a police station and tortured more-so than one of his court appointed attorneys Brian Dosch and his mother Virginia Clements. The 16 year old barely 120 pound youth told judge after judge his claims how he was tortured inside a police station interrogation room, however he hammered this point extremely hard to Judge William Cousins, whom Clements felt was likewise turning a blind eye to protect his career despite his ties with the NAACP and other African American organizations.

Cousins made the same old mistake that hundreds of other judges were making, judging his claims based off of physical evidence rather than the psychological damage he had suffered in custody of Chicago Police Officers on a sunny June 1981 evening.

Clements learning of the fight to gain reparations for torture survivors

I first learned of possible reparations legislation in 2012, after being released after a 80 day re-incarceration after a argument with his wife. Clements felt that a package would be needed, however he felt a package absent housing and a job would be one that would be incorrect toward the interest of men that were barely able to find housing and maintain jobs. Clements strongly opposed the package, calling it one that amounts to pure slavery and would not reflect the hardship that was imposed against all men that were labeled as Burge survivors.

In 2013 and 2014 Clements polled all 50 Chicago Aldermen as to their knowledge relevant to Chicago police torture, learning that while most had knowledge about Burge, not many were willing to step out and to support package for reparations, claiming to not have no money in the budget to support such idea. Burge and his subordinates beat and tortured over 200 people, he went to prison for lying about the torture and was allowed to keep his pension of more than 37 hundred dollars monthly at taxpayers expense. Everyone was finding out ways to make money off of this dark era in Chicago’s history, but the men affected were barely homeless.

How could Reparations be fair absent housing and jobs, Clements told Chicago media during a press conference outside city hall. Being 16 years old my most precious days was robbed from me, my learning years, the years in which many of you spent establishing your lives. From age 16 until I was 44 years of age I was caged inside a prison cell while viewed as a criminal. I was taught nothing that can benefit me today in this society and that is not fair toward me nor any of the people that were victimized by Burge. Despite his call for housing and jobs to be implemented within the ordinance package it was ignored, and the package built some support from Chicago Aldermen Howard Brookins, Joe Moore, and Joe Moreno who was able to have the package brought before the Finance Committee in which it set for over a year absent a hearing for passage in order to proceed.

In Mid-2014 Clements came on board with much as two other torture survivors, calling on the city of Chicago to make it right in the lives of those that were affected as the result of Burge. How could this be a city that passed a resolution making the city a “torture free zone”, however to permit the conduct of Burge with leaving men affected as the result of Burge inside a prison absent evidentiary hearings on their claim of torture. Clements could not seem to understand how a city with such a dark history with police abuse, torture, and police shootings not be held responsible for the wrongful convictions and torture that occurred under Burge watch as an employee within the city of Chicago. The city have spent millions on Burge defense and additional millions in payouts for Burge tortures and subsequent wrongful convictions connected with Burge and his subordinates torture.

Forever will the vision of Tommy Jackson be in my mind as police brutalized him at area three violent crime unit in 1981 in failed efforts to have him confess to the arson fire that killed the 4 people, Clements testified before a Chicago city council meeting. Torture Reparations is much needed for all torture survivors, but let me make it clear, it still amounts to slavery, but it would stick out like a sore thumb absent a true and accountable package imposed upon the city, a comprehensive accountability package based upon the conduct of Burge, and it cannot be absent housing and a job. It is the community that support this package, but it’s Aldermen that know the true hardship upon all that were victimized by Burge and it’s them, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel that must make it right. I support the 20 million dollar package, but it should be more, not a penny less.

After Clements testified, he was informed that a package had been reached with the city, and that he may not be included. How could this be he recalls seeking answers from Attorney Joey Mogul. He vowed to continue the fight and to attempt if need be to litigate action before the court, as in April 2009 Cook County Chief circuit court judge Paul Biebel ruled that he was a victim and that his arguments met the requirements to appoint the Cook County Special Prosecutor to his case, remaining the case completely from the hands of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Several weeks after Clements testified before the city council he was requested by other activists to attend the city council meeting on May 6th as Chicago Aldermen would be voting on the complete reparations ordinance. That morning no one told me the package had been reduced from 20 million dollars to 5.5 million dollars. While others thank the aldermen for the package of the 5.5 million dollar package, Clements thank the aldermen for the 20 million dollar package at the news conference, calling it slave reparations, however telling media it was a start toward hopefully bringing a end to the dark scandal that affected many people.

It was not until a victory celebration party held in Chicago downtown, that Clements learned the package had been reduced to 5.5 million dollars and that he may not be included to collect. Giving up was not in me especially since my mother fought so hard for years to win my freedom from prison.

Throughout the proceedings I understood that I was one out of many that had not been legally represented by the People’s Law Office and could this be a reason why I had been left out of the package. Never once had I been informed relevant to the negotiations of this ordinance and had I been admonished of a 5.5 million dollar agreement, I believe that I would have rejected the proposal as one that do not reflect the hardship that myself and others had to experience inside a police station interrogation room. Never did I sign an attorney client privilege agreement, I was informed of everything through a third party and not directly as the negotiations were being conducted. Still this day that practice remains as the reparations package is before Mayor Emanuel attorneys and other staff to iron out.

In September, 2015 the administrator appointed to determine whether someone met the requirements of a torture survivor found probable cause that in June 1981 I had been tortured and recommended that my claim advance. At some point in December 2015 I was informed that the city of Chicago rejected my claim, alleging that I had not raised my claim of torture adequately before the court. My claim was rejected by the city of Chicago and referred to arbitration to have the city rescind its rejection.

This entitled me to a claim of 100 thousand dollars, free college education, vocational training, job training, psychological treatment, the right to have the history of Burge tortures taught to 8th and 10th graders who all attend Chicago public schools, entitlement in a memorial for torture survivors, and the right to receive an apology from the mayor of Chicago. Nothing have been provided other than for monetary pay outs, and it was only provided to 57 of more than 100 plus men and women. These benefits other than for monetary would be provided to our children and grandchildren, and that deceased torture survivors and victims would be stripped out of the package. This raised question concern with Chicago Activists Wallace Gator Bradley who advocated for Marvin Jones and Grayland Johnson. This was wrong he told members of the city council, how could this occur when they were survivors and victims too he told a packed city council.


Since winning reparations not a single torture survivor or  victim have been provided with any additional agreements that were allegedly reached in the Ordinance. No one have received any psychological treatment, none of the survivors or victims have received an apology from mayor Emanuel, none have received any parts of the education agreement nor have any received any knowledge as to when a Chicago Justice Memorial building will be made available for services nor to the community.

This is a reparations package that was passed over 12 months ago and in that package it stated that the city of Chicago would provide the following as is described by Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins to USA news in May, 2015:

“ Alderman Howard Brookins said Burge’s actions were an “atrocity” and called the reparations “a meaningful settlement.”

“I want to say to the rest of the world and Chicago, we get it,” Brookins said. “That type of behavior will not be tolerated in our city, and we can work together bringing the community and the people together for the betterment of our city.”

A victim who has a credible claim will receive up to $100,000.

In addition, the Chicago City Council will formally apologize, create a permanent memorial recognizing the victims and teach public school students about the Burge case in their eighth- and 10th-grade history classes.

City college tuition and job training will be provided free to Burge victims, their immediate family members and their grandchildren. The city will fund psychological, family, substance abuse and other counseling services to victims and their immediate family members.

Chicago had already spent about $100 million on settlements and legal fees related to lawsuits over Burge’s actions.

Today it is known that the city of Chicago memorial was a park bench that would reveal all of the torture survivors name. The city have only made good when it has come to providing checks to over 57 different men that were determined to have been tortured under the watch of Burge.

While it’s very notable and appreciative that a group of lawyers from Chicago fought to achieve some relief for torture survivors and men that are incarcerated inside the Illinois Department of Corrections the legislation can only benefit someone that is incarcerated monetary as all additional services will not be able to be provided to them from a State agency. Myself, nor any of the torture survivors or victims to my knowledge signed attorney client privilege contracts for any attorney to advocate in their interest to the city of Chicago.

As a survivor of torture myself nor any torture survivor or victim, beyond two, was properly admonished as to the negotiations relevant to the reparations package, to have an interest in what relief should be sought and what relief would be agreed too.


I suffered torture at the hands of police as a youth, denied proper safeguards by police and sent through the nightmare of a criminal trial for an arson that killed 4 people. Torture reparations should not just reflect some victims, however the entire pie. Police intentionally and deliberately lied to families of crime victims, sending many through additional psychological suffering and in dismay of police practices. As a kid I was sentence to natural life not just once, but four different times and told that I would die inside a prison for a crime that I clearly knew that I had not committed. The political hands and interest grew deep, so deep that most courts rejected men claims of torture upon sight of a petition seeking relief.

Illinois prisons were openly allowed to be ran by street gangs by the Illinois Department of Corrections. I witnessed inmates stabbed, some stabbed to death, inmates shot and killed by guards, inmates beat by guards, guards stabbed or beaten by inmates, and a total environment that amounted to inhumane conditions, a limited community that was permitted to be violent by some Correctional staff who had an interest in collecting from inmate drug sales. Inmates that were placed in the custody of Illinois prisons were treated equally, being subject to rules that were harsh.

Sitting inside a prison for 28 years was something that was cruel, especially since the city of Chicago and most courts clearly knew that tortures occurred and were occurring under the command of Burge. The city of Chicago fought repeatedly against the men’s claims for over 43 years before it admitted Burge tortured criminal suspects inside interrogation rooms. For nearly 35 years the torture of Jackson inside area three violent crime unit remain to torment me in my sleep, as I am psychologically harassed through my sleep disorder of being chained inside a police station and having my genitals grabbed and squeezed, yelling at the top of my lungs for anyone to come in and to help me. The help that came was an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney, however he turned me over to my torturer Detective John McCann, who used the term of “little nigger” and “little nigger boy!” as he punched me , hitting me so hard in my chest it knocked the air out of my body. I could see hatred and racism throughout his face, as he demanded me to cooperate.

The confession in which I was forced to repeat to this assistant Cook County prosecutor absolutely made no common sense, however it did not raise red flags to adults who could not determine that no 7100 South Wells existed in Chicago. How could someone be found guilty based off of a confession that shown a lack of credibility and substance from the outset, a confession that describes four perpetrators and 3 bottles and states that each perpetrator had a bottle apiece. How could this be, how could the criminal justice system not be able to piece through the obvious that was right before their eyes?

The four people who died in this arson fire were human beings, however they were not viewed as human enough for police to do their jobs to ensure that the appropriate persons responsible would be held accountable for their conduct. In nearly every case in which Burge and his subordinates are responsible for savagely torturing confessions from men inside police stations, it is shown that police fabricated evidence or lied under oath to gain convictions, however not any of the detectives have been held accountable and despite evidence showing that police arrested incorrect suspects, prosecutors nor police have probe new informations into the cases to attempt to correct the appropriate perpetrator. None of this can be viewed as justice, it’s not the services that you would desire for your family, children, nor any one that is personally apart of your life to be apart of. This is a sad chapter in the history of Chicago that has been unfairly misrepresented by the city of Chicago and County of Cook for many decades.

There are two men that were homeless and could not find out about Chicago Police torture reparations any sooner and those men are being told today that they will not be able to collect more take part in the interest of torture reparation. Those two men are Gregory Smith and Tyshawn Ross. Both suffered over 20 years inside the a prison, however because they had no one to advocate for them in a timely fashion, they have been stripped out of the package.

A fair and cohesive torture package must be one that reflect the injury in which was inflicted. Burge keeps his pension despite clear and convincing evidence existing that he tortured much as 200 men and women inside interrogation rooms. Burge brought hell on earth for many of his victims, even lying to ensure that some of the men would be imposed with death sentences, while many were sentence to natural life or long terms inside a prison. Burge was free as a bird allowed to move to Florida once being terminated from the Chicago Police Department in 1993 in wake of allegations that he tortured Andrew and Jackie Wilson inside area two violent crime unit. Burge purchased a boat  and lived a comfortable life while his victims were penniless and crowded inside of some of Illinois most dangerous and deteriorating prisons. Many of his victims were subject to abuse inside of the prison system especially inside of solitary confinement, Tamms supermax before it was shut down in 2013 by former Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn.

I was just a kid when incarcerated, someone that never learned life in society and being forced to deal with life some 34 plus years later absent extensive re-entry has left men such as myself unprepared for an advanced society that have changed in leaps and bounds.

The city of Chicago announced its reparations deal, agreed to the following:

The city have already Reneged on its agreement to allow the history of Burge tortures to be taught inside Chicago schools during the 2015-16 term to 8th and 10th graders as the school year is less than five weeks before spring break. The city of Chicago have agreed to a memorial, however what that memorial looks like is still uncertain a year later.

Without any doubt each person affected as the result of Burge and his tortures are suffering psychologically, this was the cry of attorneys that fought for this package and it was echoed by Chicago aldermen through its vote through the city council. Re-Entry services that the city of Chicago offer to the men affected as the result of torture are the same services that are made available to them at any given time, and those agencies have been ineffective toward helping people that were once incarcerated as the result of budget crisis. Likewise the same services that the city desire to offer men and women affected as the result of torture are the same services that are made to any other poor resident in the city of Chicago.

Yes! torture reparations in the city of Chicago must be viewed historial, however are the men receiving any services that they would not be entitled too as a poor citizen. Yes! This is a project through the Justice Torture Memorial, an off Branch group within the Illinois Coalition Against Torture, however I am a survivor of torture and believe that all affected as the result of torture must have a part in negotiations with the city of Chicago.

This package was reached in May of 2015, where is the services, where is the Memorial for torture survivors and where is the integrity of the city of Chicago to make it right to the people it wronged, to their families and to the community that was affected as the result of Burge corruption?

Each person legally entitled to the package must all play a part in reaching relief, I have not signed any contract nor many any arrangement with any one to negotiate the remedy of this package in my interest. Reparations must reflect the injury in which so many suffered, its one that cannot be watered down with services that is made available to all other residents, but should be one that provide special services to heal and not wound. As Burge resides comfortably in his Florida residence, so should that same entitlement be loosened up on all victims.

The City of Chicago provided monetary damages before the injunctive relief, literally entrapping the victims of torture to an agreement in which many may not even support. Thursday until Friday, May 12-13, 2016 Chicago torture survivor Clements and family members of torture victims will call on the city of Chicago to provide all services it reached through the May, 2015 package.

By: Mark A. Clements

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.

Download Solitary Confinement in Illinois: Facts & Demands PDF

Supporters of the bill include:
• Torture Survivors Against Solitary
Uptown People’s Law Center
Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights
• Illinois Coalition Against Torture
• United Voices for Prisoners
• Black and Pink Chicago
• Eighth Day Center for Justice
• A Just Harvest
• Cabrini Green Legal Aid
• National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago
• Sage Community Health Collective
• Communities & Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children

Sign the Petition Supporting the Bill Here