Friday, March 09, 2012


It is Friday and at Scission that means it is time to remember another of our political prisoners.

Today we take a look at the case of Russell Maroon Shoats.  Russell is a founding member of the Black Unity Council and a fmomer member of the Black Panther Party.

Russell was a solider in the Black Liberation Army and he is serving endless time for an attack on a police station which resulted in the death of an officer.

How did Russell get "there."

The Denver Anarchist Black Cross puts it this way:

Tensions were high in Philadelphia in the summer of 1970 because Philadelphia Police Chief Frank Rizzo had ordered a crackdown on militant groups in the run-up to the national convention of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia on September 5, 1970.
Tensions intensified when police killed a black youth in Philadelphia.  A retaliatory attack was carried out on a police station, killing officer Frank Von Coln and injuring one other.
The shooting of Von Coln prompted a 2 a.m. raid on the Black Panther headquarters in North Philadelphia. After the raid police officials allowed news photographers to take humiliating photos of the Black Panthers being strip searched on the street.
Russell and four others (who became known as the “Philly Five”) were immediately charged with the attack.  They went underground and continued to struggle for New Afrikan self-determination as part of the Black Liberation Army.
In January of 1972 Russell was captured.  He was convicted of the attack on the police station and sentenced to life.

Russell beat the life sentence briefly.  He escaped from prison in 1977, but was recaptured twenty seven days later.

He did it again in 1980 when he he escaped confinement once more.  Three days later after a gun battle he was back in custody.

In 1991 Russell was placed in solitary confinement.  He has been there ever since.

Enough is enough.

The following is from Invictus.

Petition to End the Solitary Confinement Torture of Russell Maroon Shoats

Russell Maroon Shoats was a member of the Black Panther Party and a founding member of the Black Unity Council, sentenced to multiple life sentences for the 1970 murder of a Philadelphia area police officer. According to the website Free Russell Maroon Shoats, "he was on the verge of being released from solitary confinement [last year] after the staff that he interacted with on a daily basis and top officials in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ Central Office approved a change in his custody status, but the prison’s Superintendent, Louis Folino, vetoed the release at the last minute."

Shoats, who remains a committed opponent of US racism and imperialism, has been held in solitary confinement all told some 30 years, including a stint at the notorious Marion Supermax prison in Illinois.

The following is a petition that has been initiated to pressure prison authorities to remove Shoats from isolation, a form of imprisonment that is an inhumane assault on the sensorium and nervous system of the prisoner that causes irreversible brain damage and psychological damage. This punishment is politically-motivated, and must be opposed by all supporters of human rights and social change.
Sign the Petition

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.

Sign the Petition
Listen to a podcast of Mumia Abu-Jamal discussing Shoats.

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