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.

Petition: Free Andre Jacobs! He Has Suffered for Ten Years as a Victim of Solitary Confinement in Pennsylvania

Sign here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/free-andre-jacobs-he-has-suffered-for-ten-years-as-a-victim-of-solitary-confinement-in-pennsylvania/

To: Secretary John E. Wetzel of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Sponsored by: Andre Jacobs Legal Defense Fund, Human Rights Coalition–Harrisburg, Int’l Prison Watch, On the Block Radio,  PA Advocates for Abandoned Adolescents.

Andre is a 29 year old Black man unjustly imprisoned and heavily targeted for his filing of grievances and lawsuits in defense of human rights inside the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC).  By highlighting Andre’s battles against wrongful convictions and solitary confinement, we aim to bring greater public awareness to the injustices of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Andre Jacobs’s childhood was plagued with abuse and alcoholism in his immediate family. In 1997, when he was only 15 years old, Andre was first sentenced to prison for non-violent offenses. In 2001 Andre was placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for a lawsuit he had filed after being assaulted by a guard. Andre remains in solitary confinement to this day.  He has barely had a life outside of prison.

In 2005, at the Federal Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andre was dragged onto an elevator by U.S. marshals in front of his grandmother and beaten unconscious after the completion of a civil rights suit he had brought. Federal marshals conspired to frame Andre for assaulting them, despite his being cuffed and shackled at the time, and he was sentenced to an additional 17 years in prison as a result.

In 2008, Andre was awarded $185,000 by a jury in a civil rights suit after they determined that PA DOC staff had violated his rights. This was one of the four civil suits Andre has brought to trial from his solitary confinement cell, where he is held 23-24 hours per day in conditions of extreme social isolation, sensory deprivation, and subjected to constant acts of retaliation.

Against all odds, Andre has persevered through the torture, received a degree from Blackstone University, and is now a certified paralegal. Because of his talents as a jailhouse lawyer and his uncompromising defense of his rights and the rights of all prisoners, Andre has become a frequent target of racist guards and ranking officials and repeatedly subjected to assault, destruction of property, unlawful confiscation of legal mail, food tampering, withholding of medical care, starvation and deprivation of water, and placed on indefinite/permanent solitary confinement status by the secretary of the PA DOC.

Andre’s resilience and refusal to submit to arbitrary, racist, and lawless authority has placed him in harm’s way repeatedly and transformed him into an exceptionally talented and committed human rights defender. His story needs to be heard, his rights protected, and his cause championed.

“I am being killed psychologically. I’ve never had a chance at life and here people are conspiring to take my future from me. This is my first time in prison and it is truly a nightmare! I call on every organization, attorney, and member of society to assist me in educating the world in what goes on behind prison walls in America.”–Andre Jacobs.  



Please sign our petition for Andre, and forward to others, thank you!!
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/free-andre-jacobs-he-has-suffered-for-ten-years-as-a-victim-of-solitary-confinement-in-pennsylvania/

Jeffrey Deskovic – Petition for Reforms

eforms Pertaining To Interrogations

(False confessions have accounted for 25% of the 208 DNA exonerations)

1. All interrogations should be videotaped, from beginning to end, which would prevent police from omitting abuse tactics they use from their testimony. It would allow a complete and accurate record of who said what, when, and what context. It would also protect honest police officers from false allegations of coercion.

1. 2. The use of the polygraph, lying to suspects about having evidence that they don’t have, prolonged interrogations over many hours should be outlawed because such tactics have been linked to false confessions. False confession studies show that these convey to suspects that no matter what, they will be arrested for something they did not do, it is just a matter of whether they will make it worse on themselves by lying through maintaining innocence.

2. 3. Interrogation of the mentally ill and/or retarded should only take place with a lawyer present because mentally ill and retarded people try to compensate for their deficiencies by being compliant.

3. 4. Before confession evidence is allowed into a trial, a pre trial hearing on the issue of whether a confession is truthful should be conducted, akin to a Wade hearing in which identification accuracy is reviewed, because confession testimony is devastating to defendants, resulting in a conviction 80% of the time, and the current pretrial hearing on voluntariness is not enough, since cases in which confessions have been proven to have been false based on DNA, judges have not suppressed such evidence.

Reforms Pertaining To Eyewitness Identification

(Misidentification has been the cause of wrongful convictions in 75% of the 208 DNA exonerations)
4. 5. Sequential lineups and photo arrays should be used, rather than showing many people at once to allow victims to focus intently on each photo or person.

5. 6. Everyone in the array and/or lineup should resemble each other, so that no one sticks out and to improve on the accuracy of identifications.

6. 7. The victim should be told that the perpetrator may not be present, so as to prevent victims from having undue confidence that the perpetrator is there, thus leading to a misidentification.

7. 8. Victims should be told that the investigation will continue if they don’t make an identification so that they don’t feel pressured into making an ID, lest the guilty party escape justice.

8. 9. The officers conducting the lineup should be in the blind as to who is suspected, so as to prevent inadvertent cues or clues from being given.

10. Confidence statements should be taken, in which a victim states, on a scale of 1 to 10, how confident they are about their identification, to give courts and juries further insight into an identification

9. 11. The lineup or photo array should be taped, to ensure its integrity.

Reform Pertaining To Incentivized Witnessing

Incentivized witnessing has been the cause of wrongful convictions in 15% of the 208 DNA exonerations
10. 12. The practice of incentivized witnessing, in which a witness’s gets a reward for testifying-whether a lesser prison sentence, having charges dropped, or just getting financial compensation should be ended; those who have evidence should come forward on a moral basis rather than being rewarded for doing so, because when desperate prisoners have been caught red handed for committing a crime and they have no truthful information to trade on, they falsely implicate others.

Reforms Pertaining To Evidence
11. 13. There should be a standardized evidence preservation system to ensure that evidence is preserved and available for inspection and testing. Right now there is no such system and the first obstacle for the wrongfully convicted is whether the evidence can be located and whether it has been destroyed. If it has, the innocent remain incarcerated with no way to prove innocence.

12. 14. It should be a crime whenever police and prosecutors purposely withhold evidence. History shows that with no personal penalties, morality alone is not enough to restrain some rogue policemen and prosecutors

Reforms Pertaining To Public Defenders

Without quality attorneys, unsaddled with the current disadvantages that public defenders have as opposed to the prosecution, innocent defendants will continue to be wrongfully convicted, and cases will not have just and fair outcomes.
13. 15. There should be one standardized system of defense for the poor statewide, as advocated for in The Spangenberg Group’s report for Chief Judge Judith Kaye on The State of Indigent Defence in New York, because such centralization would allow for more internal oversight, accountability, and review of public defenders. It would allow for more quality control.

14. 16. Those public defenders who have been found to have performed sub-standard performance for indigent defendants should no longer be employed by the state to do so. Because to do so would be to set the stage for future inadequate performances by that lawyer thus resulting in defendants, who are presumed innocent, to be victimized.

15. 17. The defense and the prosecution should have an equal and adequate budget to hire experts and other necessary personnel to assist in the preparation of cases rather than the defense having an extremely limited budget while the prosecution has a huge budget, because on such an unequal playing field, no confidence can be placed on the outcome of court proceedings or verdicts.

16. 18. Public Defenders should have the same size staff as The District Attorneys to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by sheer manpower. Each side should have enough personnel to adequately prepare a case.

17. 19. There should be a limit to the amount of cases each public defender is allowed to take on at one time. In the Bronx, NY, for example, it is not unusual for a public defender to have 120 cases at the same time. Overburdening a public defender prevents him or her from giving each case the time, preparation, and investigation it deserves.

18. 20. Public Defenders should be given pay equal to that of prosecutors, because otherwise the best legal talent will go to one side. Further, quality lawyers should not be discouraged from being public defenders by being given less pay, especially given the astronomical loans that young lawyers have as a result of going to law school.

19. 21. Indigent Defendants should be provided with court appointed attorneys to handle post conviction 440 motions, so that they can have competent legal representation, rather than trying to represent themselves against trained and seasoned prosecutors.

Reforms Pertaining To DNA
20. 22. Allow all of the wrongfully convicted to prove innocence with DNA, even in cases where defendants have pled guilty, because some judges have interpreted the law to prevent such defendants from having access to DNA. In 11 cases nationwide innocent defendants have falsely pled guilty, often as a result of fear of a higher sentence. Allowing the testing causes guilt to be confirmed or innocence to be established.

21. 23. Give Judges the authority to order crime scene DNA comparisons to DNA Databases; currently the law does not explicitly give them that authority, and whether the testing goes forward or not often relies on the discretion of the prosecution, whereas the power belongs in the hands of the judge.

22. 24. Current law allows judges the authority to order DNA in those cases in which DNA could affect the outcome, it should be that in any case in which there is testable material, a test should be done; because DNA will always be germane to guilt or innocence.

23. 25. Prosecutors should not be allowed to explain away negative DNA Test results at a trial by claiming the victim had a consensual sexual encounter, without first proving that such an encounter took place, because without requiring that a factual background first be established, it would allow prosecutors to mute such evidence.

24. 26. When a prosecutor argues that a rape or other crime was committed by one person, and then a post conviction DNA Test shows the defendant is innocent, prosecutors should not be allowed to then change their theory on appeal and claim that a crime was committed by two people, so as to be able to get around the DNA Test, because to allow otherwise would be a way to get around the power of DNA to prove innocence. Conclusions should be based on what the evidence shows, not by making evidence fit a conclusion.

Reforms Pertaining to Post Conviction Review
25. 27. The Court Of Appeals should review all cases, as a matter of a defendants right, as an additional level of review, with the goal of catching more wrongful convictions.

26. 28. There should be a review apparatus, independent of appeals and a pardon, which can review cases in which a defendant has a colorable claim of innocence, because often the wrongfully convicted have had their appeals exhausted, which shows that appellate review is not enough to protect the innocent, while it is a highly charged political environment for a Governor to issue a pardon. Rather, such a review should be independent of both, and be staffed by wrongful conviction experts, who have the power to overturn wrongful convictions.

27. 29. An Innocence Commission Should be created to study what went wrong in wrongful convictions, so that lessons can be learned from such wrongful convictions, and changes adopted, to try to prevent future wrongful convictions.

Reforms Pertaining to compensation
28. 30. An immediate sum of 15,000 dollars per year of wrongful incarceration should immediately be paid to those who have been cleared of a crime, aside from money awarded as a result of a lawsuit, to meet such immediate needs such as housing, cost of living, mental health services, health insurance, and education. A guilty person on parole currently receives more help than an exoneree, who receives nothing.

29. 31. Compensation Lawsuits should receive fast track processing in court, whereby priority would be given to such cases, because the wrongfully convicted struggle financially after being released, following such incarceration.

30. 32. Bad Case Law stating that if an exonerated person has contributed to his or her own wrongful conviction they are not eligible to receive any compensation should be changed, because the idea that anybody would intentionally get themselves wrongfully convicted, sentenced to prison, only to then clear themselves in order to be in position to then sue is ridiculous. To deny anybody who has been wrongfully convicted, is to add insult to injury.

Reforms Pertaining To The Parole Board which bear upon innocence
31. 33. The Parole Board should not be allowed to deny parole to those who profess their innocence based upon their not taking responsibility for their crimes or expressing remorse, because that does not take into account the reality of wrongful convictions. The wrongfully convicted should not be made to remain in prison, based upon their protestation of innocence. It is a fact that some wrongfully convicted prisoners were previously denied parole after finishing their sentence minimums but before they were cleared, based upon this, whereas they could have at least regained their freedom sooner.

32. 34. The Parole Board should not be allowed to deny parole to prisoners based upon their not completing the sex offender class, because such class requires prisoners to explicitly admit guilt to the other people in the class as well as to the instructors as a condition of completing the class. Such a practice places the wrongfully convicted in the catch 22 of either falsely admitting guilt to try to regain freedom, or to lose a chance at freedom as the price for maintaining innocence.

SIGN PETITION HERE