People’s Tribunal Against Solitary Confinement
Friday, April 21, 2017
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
430 S Michigan Ave,
“Solitary confinement” is defined by the United Nations Committee Against Torture as incarceration in a cell for 22-24 hours a day. Around 8,000 Illinois prisoners are held in a form of solitary confinement. Some have been held in the box for over a decade. To disguise its use of solitary, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) calls the practice by other names, such as Disciplinary Segregation, Administrative Detention, and Room Restriction. All of these are forms of solitary.
Join us for an evening of testimony and outrage against state-sanctioned torture. State representatives and senators from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs have been invited and will be asked at the tribunal to sign on to support HB259, the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act, which would limit the amount to time people can be held in solitary to 10 days within any 150 period. Call your elected representatives and ask that they be present.
Brian Nelson & Gregory Koger, founders of Torture Survivors Against Solitary, will be speaking at University of Chicago on November 1, 2016:
Tuesday, November 1, 2016 – 6pm – 8pm
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
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.
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.
Torture Survivors Against Solitary
So I was reading the recent report released by the John Howard Association concerning the mental health treatment In Illinois Department of Corrections.
JHA’s Summary and Guide to IDOC’s Mental Health Settlement in Rasho.
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.
September 9th National Prison Strike flyer
Please join and spread the FaceBook event for the demo
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
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
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
Yes, I know the video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but it is what it is…
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…