Russell Maroon Shoats moved to general population

We received this good message via Facebook (Bret Grote): 

“Victory! I just got off a phone call with Russell Maroon Shoatz at SCI Graterford. This morning he was placed in the general population of the prison, ending more than 22 consecutive years of solitary confinement. He is VERY happy, and sends his gratitude to all of his supporters.”


Thanks to so many people working tirelessly, like the family and friends of Russell, and people of the Abolitionist Law Center, and so many who signed petitions, called in, wrote letters, etc.

Let’s keep working to get real justice for Russell Maroon Shoats and all others in difficult positions, wrongfully incarcerated, in solitary confinement for endless times, etc.

Message from Maroon – Action Alert

From the Human Rights Coalition – Action Alert:


“This was the third strike – now we either go hard, or go home.”
Greetings! A very happy new year to all my supporters and loved ones!
By now you are aware that I am being housed in an underground cell at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Graterford, in a part of the Restricted Housing Unit known as J Block, which is used to house the criminally insane.
My rapid response team has also got word to you about the conditions in this dungeon: a few days after my arrival I cleaned the human feces off the walls of my cell with my own hands; when it rains, water leaks through a hole in the roof and floods my cell – with heavy rains expected, I am sure this problem will only get worse.
The screaming and banging coming from the surrounding cells of mentally challenged inmates, plus the 24-hour fluorescent lights, make it impossible to concentrate, let alone sleep.
Those of you who have been closely following my situation know that I am being subjected to these conditions DESPITE successfully completing the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC)’s 60-day “step-down” program at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Frackville, which was conducted with the express purpose of releasing me from the hole into the general prison population.
My current circumstances make two things very clear:
  • First, that the Department of Corrections CANNOT be trusted to play by their own rules;
  • Second, that my isolation in the hole has NOTHING to do with administrative or disciplinary concerns but is instead a punishment for my political beliefs, and the prison administration’s fear that these beliefs will reach other prisoners.  They fear that I will awaken the dead . . .
For years, the PA DOC has tried to crush my fighting spirit by keeping me locked up in the hole. This move to SCI Graterford – my third transfer in six months – is just the latest in a series of attempts to test my resolve; it is also, in my opinion, the third strike.
I am here to tell you all that my will is holding strong. I am a political prisoner: imprisoned because I stood up against oppression, and I continue to support all those who stand up against repression everywhere.
My perspective is one thousand years of struggle. My commitment has been – and will always be – the liberation of black people. In that spirit let me say that 2014 is not going to be a year of taking abuse and torture lying down: it is a year in which we either go HARD, or go HOME!
I am calling on you, my supporters, loved ones and friends, to answer that call. This year I am asking you all to do whatever it takes to end the torture of 23-hour isolation and bring an end to this miscarriage of justice.
STRAIGHT AHEAD!           
Russell MAROON Shoatz
# AF-3855, 
P.O. Box 244, 
Graterford, PA 19426-0246
***
ACTION ALERT & UPDATE: CONTINUE THE PRESSURE!
Thank you to all supporters for answering the call to action!  Your phone calls and letters are WORKING.  Maroon received a blanket, clothes, his personal belongings, and his medication. 
Maroon appreciates all your support and diligent action on his behalf. 
However, he is not OUT of this torturous situation.  SCI Graterford authorities still have him buried in solitary confinement – the same Restricted Housing Unit for the criminally insane.  It is an underground dungeon that floods and where the lights are on 24 hours a day.  It is also where Maroon has to endure continuous banging and cries for help from mentally ill prisoners suffering in the same unit.
The time is now to RAMP UP the pressure on Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) Secretary John Wetzel and SCI Superintendent Wenerowicz and Graterford authorities demanding that they immediately remove Maroon from this present condition and release him into general population.    
PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel and PA DOC administrators continue to double cross Maroon by not fulfilling their verbal and written promises to release him into general population even after successfully completing a 60 day Step Down Program at SCI Frackville last fall 2013.
As Maroon stated, “the Dept. of Corrections cannot be trusted to play by their own rules.”
We are asking supporters to INTENSIFY the calls, faxes, and letters to PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, Superintendent Wenerocwicz, and Graterford authorities.   Remember, Maroon has made the call to “go HARD or go home!”
CALL, FAX, & SEND SEPARATE LETTERS TO:
SCI Graterford Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz
 and 
SCI Graterford RHU J Block Manager Mr. Terra,
P.O. Box 246, 
Graterford, PA 19426-0246 
Phone: 610-489-4151 
FAX: 484-961-7907 
to let them know:
·  We are concerned members of the community who are monitoring the situations involving inmate Russell Shoatz and the conditions he is being held under,
·  We are expecting that SCI Graterford will be accepting the information regarding Shoatz’ successful completion of the step-down program at SCI Frackville, and their recommendation that he be released from Restricted Housing into General Population,
·  We hold PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel and PA DOC administrators responsible for failing to fulfill their promises to release Russell Shoatz into General Population,
·  We request that you immediately remove Russell Shoatz out of the J Block cell for the criminally insane because he doesn’t belong nor deserve to be there, the conditions are torturous, and he is not under Disciplinary Custody, AND
·  We also request that SCI Graterford transfer Russell Shoatz into General Population as promised by Secretary Wetzel and PA DOC authorities.
For letters and faxes, please use the same talking points (letters: return receipt requested).
CALL, FAX, & SEND LETTERS OF CONCERN, PA DOC SUPERINTENDENT JOHN WETZEL, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050, Phone: 717-728-4109, FAX 717-728-4178 to let him know:
·  We are frustrated and angry at the continued delays, and unfulfilled promises, and unwarranted treatment of inmate Russell Shoatz with his most recent transfer into a feces infested cell where the criminally insane are housed in the J Block unit at SCI Graterford.
·  His consistent good faith efforts to abide by all State Correctional procedures for transfer to general population have successfully earned him the support of prison official and administrators at SCI Mahanoy and Frackville.
·  In light of recent US Department of Justice findings that Pennsylvania State Prisons have used solitary confinement in direct violation of inmates’ constitutional rights, and United Nations guidelines regarding the illegality of using restrictive housing for punitive, long-term purposes, we write with concern that Shoatz’ continued placement in restricted housing constitutes an act of torture: cruel and unusual punishment.

·  As voters and community members, we demand Shoatz’ immediate release into general population, and will continue to closely monitor this situation until Shoatz’ conditions are safe and legal.

Russell Maroon Shoatz Out of Solitary NOW!

Action Alert: Russell Maroon Shoatz Out of Solitary NOW!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Action Alert : Call now to demand the IMMEDIATE release of Russell Maroon Shoatz from solitary confinement!

Former Black Panther Russell Maroon Shoatz has been held in torturous conditions of solitary confinement in Pennsylvania prisons for the past thirty years. He has not had a serious rule violation for more than two decades. Maroon’s role as an educator, human rights defender, writer, and critical intellectual of liberation movements is widely renowned.
From April 8 to May 10, the Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz is calling for an intense call-in and write-in campaign to bring pressure on the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC), to release Maroon from solitary confinement and into the general prison population. This is the first major phase of a coordinated political-legal campaign, beginning with Maroon’s attorneys sending a “Demand Letter” to the PA DOC on the morning of April 8, 2013. The letter, outlining the legal and humanitarian reasons why an immediate release from solitary is needed, gives the PA DOC an opportunity to correct the grave injustices being carried out on a daily basis before litigation begins.
Maroon needs your help! Here’s how:
April 8
-Begin flooding the office of PA Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel with phone calls, letters, and faxes. Send a copy of that letter, or address a similar letter, to the office of SCI Mahanoy Superintendent John Kerestes.(download sample letter)   (download sample letter)

PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel                        SCI Mahanoy Supt. John Kerestes
1920 Technology Parkway                                   301 Morea Road
Mechanicsburg, PA, 17050                                  Mahanoy, PA, 17932
Phone number: 717-728-4109                           Phone number: 570-773-2158
Fax number: 717-728-4178                                Fax number: 570-783-2008
If you have contact with media in your area, consider suggesting that they cover this story, including the April 8 – May 10 pressure campaign.
Help publicize the campaign in schools, workplaces, churches, and communities nationwide. (download press release)
Talking Points
  • Russell Maroon Shoatz (if writing DOC, always put his prison number – AF-3855) has been in solitary confinement for almost 30 years despite the fact that his disciplinary record has been impeccable-without incident for the past 20 of those years.
  • Such “prolonged” solitary confinement is a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, according to UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez. It starves the mind of basic social interaction, human contact, and intellectual stimulation needed for proper brain functioning.
  • Other Pennsylvania prisoners with more extensive violent histories and more recent disciplinary infractions have nevertheless been released from solitary and are now held in general population.
  • Maroon is being targeted because of his work as an educator and because of his political ideas; his time in solitary began just after he was elected president of an officially-sanctioned prison-based support group. This targeting is in violation of his basic human and constitutional rights.
  • At age 69, Maroon poses no threat to the physical well-being or running of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. His 23-hour-a-day physical isolation in solitary is unnecessary and costly.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union, Physicians for Human Rights, and a growing number of prominent world leaders are calling for an end to prolonged solitary confinement. Maroon’s case is one of the most egregious, politically motivated, and long-standing of the nation’s solitary cases.
  • Maroon has deep roots in Pennsylvania’s Black community, many friends in peace, justice, and human rights organizations, and family members and supporters throughout the State, the USA, and the world. We understand the PA DOC Secretary’s Office and the Warden of SCI Greene to be particularly and personally responsible for the torturous and lethal conditions of solitary under which Maroon is still kept.
  • Maroon must be released from solitary confinement IMMEDIATELY!!!
Who is Russell Maroon Shoatz?
Russell Maroon Shoatz is a former leader of the Black Panthers and the Black freedom movement, born in Philadelphia in 1943 and originally imprisoned in January 1972 for actions relating to his political involvement. With an extraordinary thirty-plus years spent in solitary confinement-including the past twenty-three years continuously-Maroon’s case is one of the most shocking examples of U.S. torture of political prisoners, and one of the most egregious examples of human rights violations regarding prison conditions anywhere in the world. His “Maroon” nickname is, in part, due to his continued resistance-which twice led him to escape confinement; it is also based on his continued clear analysis, including recent writings on ecology and matriarchy. THOUGH MAROON WAS RECENTLY TRANSFERRED to a lower-security correctional facility in Central Pennsylvania, he IS STILL HELD in a SOLITARY CONFINEMENT UNIT. It will take a mass, grassroots movement to free this inspiring community activist.
Part of the momentum for the campaign will come from a book tour taking place during this period, promoting the newly-published Maroon the Implacable: The collected writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz
. But it is up to everyone concerned with human rights anywhere and everywhere to spread the word far and wide, to make these 30 days count-for an end to solitary confinement and an end to the torture of Russell Maroon Shoatz.
Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz, freemaroonshoatz@gmail.com,
c/o WRL/Matt Meyer, 339 Lafayette Street, New York NY 10012

Solitary confinement: Torture chambers for black revolutionaries

From: Al-Jazeera, Aug 10th 2012
An estimated 80,000 men, women and even children are being held in solitary confinement on any given day in US prisons.

With: Kanya D’Almeida and Bret Grote

“The torture technicians who developed the paradigm used in (prisons’) ‘control units’ realised that they not only had to separate those with leadership qualities, but also break those individuals’ minds and bodies and keep them separated until they are dead.” – Russell “Maroon” Shoats

Russell “Maroon” Shoats has been kept in solitary confinement in the state of Pennsylvania for 30 years after being elected president of the prison-approved Lifers’ Association. He was initially convicted for his alleged role in an attack authorities claim was carried out by militant black activists on the Fairmont Park Police Station in Philadelphia that left a park sergeant dead.

Despite not having violated prison rules in more than two decades, state prison officials refuse to release him into the general prison population.

Russell’s family and supporters claim that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) has unlawfully altered the consequences of his criminal conviction, sentencing him to die in solitary confinement – a death imposed by decades of no-touch torture.

The severity of the conditions he is subjected to and the extraordinary length of time they have been imposed for has sparked an international campaign to release him from solitary confinement – a campaign that has quickly attracted the support of leading human rights legal organisations, such as the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild.

Less than two months after the campaign was formally launched with events in New York City and London, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, agreed to make an official inquiry into Shoats’ 21 years of solitary confinement, sending a communication to the US State Department representative in Geneva, Switzerland.

[video: Whistleblower ‘isolated’ in US jail]

What the liberals won’t tell you

While the state of Pennsylvania has remained unmoved in this matter so far, some in the US government are finally catching on. Decades after rights activists first began to refer to the practice of solitary confinement as “torture”, the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and human rights held a hearing on June 19 to “reassess” the fiscal, security and human costs of locking prisoners into tiny, windowless cells for 23 hours a day.

Needless to say, the hearing echoed in a whisper what human rights defenders have been shouting for nearly an entire generation: that sensory deprivation, lack of social contact, a near total absence of zeitgebers and restricted access to all intellectual and emotional stimuli are an evil and unproductive combination.

The hearing opened a spate of debate: with newspapers in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Ohio and elsewhere seizing the occasion to denounce the practice as “torture” and call for a reversal of a 30-year trend that has shattered – at a minimum – tens of thousands of people’s lives inside the vast US prison archipelago.

But as happens with virtually all prison-related stories in the US mainstream media, the two most important words were left unprinted, unuttered: race and revolution.

Any discussion on solitary confinement begins and ends with a number: a prisoner is kept in his or her cell 23 or 24 hours per day, allowed three showers every week and served three meals a day. According to a report by UN torture rapporteur Mendez, prisoners should not be held in isolation for more than 15 days at a stretch. But in the US, it is typical for hundreds of thousands of prisoners to pass in and out of solitary confinement for 30 or 60 days at a time each year.

Human Rights Watch estimated that there were approximately 20,000 prisoners being held in Supermax prisons, which are entire facilities dedicated to solitary confinement or near-solitary. It is estimated that at least 80,000 men, women and even children are being held in solitary confinement on any given day in US jails and prisons.

Unknown thousands have spent years and, in some cases, decades in such isolation, including more than 500 prisoners held in California’s Pelican Bay state prison for ten years or more.

Perhaps the most notorious case of all is that of the Angola 3, three Black Panthers who have been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana for more than 100 years between the three of them. While Robert King was released after 29 years in solitary, his comrades – Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace – recently began their 40th years in solitary confinement, despite an ongoing lawsuit challenging their isolation and a growing international movement for their freedom that has been supported by Amnesty International.

But all these numbers fail to mention what Robert Saleem Holbrook, who was sentenced to life without parole as a 16-year-old juvenile and has now spent the majority of his life behind bars, pointed out: “Given the control units’ track record in driving men crazy, it is not surprising that the majority of prisoners sent into it are either politically conscious prisoners, prison lawyers, or rebellious young prisoners. It is this class of prisoners that occupies the control units in prison systems across the United States.”

Holbrook’s observation is anything but surprising to those familiar with the routine violations of prisoners’ human rights within US jails and prisons. The Prison discipline study, a mass national survey assessing formal and informal punitive practices in US prisons conducted in 1989, concluded that “solitary confinement, loss of privileges, physical beatings” and other forms of deprivation and harassment were “common disciplinary practices” that were “rendered routinely, capriciously and brutally” in maximum-security US prisons.

The study also noted receiving “hundreds of comments from prisoners” explaining that jailhouse lawyers who file grievances and lawsuits about abuse and poor conditions were the most frequently targeted. Black prisoners and the mentally ill were also targeted for especially harsh treatment. This “pattern of guard brutality” was “consistent with the vast and varied body of post-war literature, demonstrating that guard use of physical coercion is highly structured and deeply entrenched in the guard subculture”.

Race and revolution

But while broad patterns can be discerned, these are the numbers that are missing: how many of those in solitary confinement are black? How many are self-taught lawyers, educators or political activists? How many initiated hunger strikes, which have long been anathema to the prison administration? How many were caught up in the FBI-organised dragnet that hauled thousands of community leaders, activists and thinkers into the maws of the US “justice” system during the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s?

Former Warden of United States Penitentiary Marion, the prototype of modern supermax-style solitary confinement, Ralph Arons, has stated: “The purpose of the Marion Control Unit is to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and in the society at large.”

One of these revolutionaries is Russell “Maroon” Shoats, the founder of the Black Unity Council, which later merged with the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was first jailed in early 1970.

Read the rest here:
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/08/20128694647587767.html

Petition to End the Solitary Confinement Torture of Russell Maroon Shoats

Sign the Petition

Petition to End the Solitary Confinement Torture of Russell Maroon Shoats

Russell Maroon Shoats (#AF-3855), a 68-year-old prisoner held at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Greene in southwestern Pennsylvania, has been kept in solitary confinement for more than 21 years. He has been unable to hold his children or grandchildren or interact with others in a humane setting during this time, despite not having violated prison rules in two decades. He has suffered severe psychological anguish and his physical health has been worsened by the stress of prolonged isolation.

Maroon has spent nearly 40 years within the Pennsylvania prison system, 30 of those in solitary confinement. During this time he has earned a reputation amongst prison staff and prisoners as a leader because of his consistent support for human rights inside and outside the walls. Prison officials claim that Mr. Shoats is a security threat due to past escapes and attempts, though new evidence has surfaced that his continued solitary confinement is based on secret and fraudulent evidence of a non-existent plan to takeover a prison in the 1980s. Prison officials also identified Maroon’s political associations as a basis for continuing to torture him via solitary confinement.

We are distressed and outraged that an elderly man who is nearing his 70th birthday continues to be treated in such a cruel manner based on his constitutionally-protected support for human rights and in retaliation for his expressing political opinions disfavored by the prison administration. Not having committed an infraction in more than two decades reveals that Russell Shoats is more than ready to re-enter the general prison population.

We, the undersigned, are calling on prison officials to end the solitary confinement torture of Russell Maroon Shoats by releasing him into the general population of the prison immediately.

Russell Maroon Shoatz: Raising Awareness of his case at Phila Marathon Nov 20th

From Russell Shoatz III support:
Sunday, November 20 · 7:00am – 9:00am
22nd Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway Phila, PA

Netdahe Stoddard is running the Philadelphia Marathon on Sun 11/20/11 in honor of Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz to raise funds and awareness. Russell has been in prison for 40 years. He has been in solitary confinement 23hrs a day for over 20 years. He has not been allowed contact visits with his grandchildren. Russell is a long time humanitarian so please sponsor and or endorse Netdahe’s 26.2 mile run to shame the Penn dept of Corrections into granting Russell basic human rights…

Supporters can send donations to Netdahe’s PO Box 74, Cabot, VT 05647

Russell Maroon Shoatz Seeks Release From Solitary Confinement After 21 Years

Jan 2nd, 2011

From: http://www.the-aspace.org/

Helping Russell Maroon Shoatz see his grandchildren is a good way to start the new year!!! 
Pennsylvania Dept Of Corrections has recommended that Russell Maroon Shoatz be released into general population. Russell Shoatz hasn’t had any infractions in the last 21 years, and everyone is on board with his release into population, except for the Superintendent Of SCI Greene, Mr. Folino.
Russell Shoatz is to appear before the Program Review Board, who also recommends Russell’s release into population, on Jan 5, 2011
We must stop Supt. Folino’s quest to keep Russell in solitary confinement (locked down 23 hours per day). Act QUICKLY If you can please call NON STOP. On Mon morning 9am est. Also please contact your local and national elected officials and any celebrities you might know. Have them call Supt, Folino Phone # 724-852-2903 Or Tracey Shawley if Folino isn’t available.
Write, Supt, Folino, 169 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, Pa 15370;
Sec Of PA Prisons, Sec, Shirley Moore Sneal Phone, 717-975-4918 For bio and more info go to: peacecomrade.org/2010/02/09/russell-maroon-shoats%E2%80%93-new-afrikan-political-prisoner-of-war/ 
Sign petition form letter and send it in.  Click Here.