Friday, October 18, 2013


It is prison Friday and we return to the case of Russell Maroon ShoatZ.  

Russell is a founding member of the Black Unity Council and a former 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.

In 1991 Russell was placed in solitary confinement.  He has been there ever since.  The South Brooklyn Anarchist Black Cross reports just 5 days after observing his 70th birthday, on August 28, 2013 Shoatz was,
transferred to the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Frackville, amaximum security institution. He has once again been immediately placed ina restricted housing unit (RHU): solitary confinement of twenty-three-hour-a-day lock down. Shoatz was not given a reason for the transfer.

The transfer came one week before Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’
(PA DOC) officials, including Secretary John Wetzel, must report to a
federal judge on the progress of Shoatz’s release into the general
population. DOC defendants in the case Shoatz v. Wetzel have represented to the court on multiple occasions that they intend to release
Shoatz into the general population, but have so far failed to do so.

Coming on the heels of a weekend of events held around the country in honor
of Shoatz’s birthday, the transfer highlights the refusal of the PA DOC to
respond to a major international campaign, launched in May 2012, to win the
release of this senior citizen into General Population. In a birthday
message sent jointly to Shoatz and PA DOC Secretary Wetzel, three Nobel
Peace Prize recipients – Archbishop Desmond Tutu of
South Africa, Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor and Mairead Corrigan Maguire
of Ireland – demanded “in the strongest possible humanitarian terms” that
“now is the time for the immediate and unconditional release” of Shoatz.

Archbishop Tutu, a founder of the Elders group which includes Nelson
Mandela and former US President Jimmy Carter, and Ramos-Horta, former
President of East Timor and a Special Representative of the United Nations,
have vowed that they will continue to monitor the situation of Shoatz until
his “unfair and unjust treatment” is alleviated. A report of Shoatz’s case
has been formally filed with the office of the UN Special
Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez.

For more on Russell, please check out the Scission post, "Russell Maroon Shoats Is a Political Prisoner."

I have no idea why his name is spelled with an "s" in one place and a "z" in another.  But then, who cares.

The following is from  Free Russell Maroon Shoatz.

Lawyers for Russell Maroon Shoatz submit request to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

October 17, 2013: Pittsburgh PA —  Lawyers for Russell Maroon Shoatz submitted acommunication to the United Nations Special Rapportuer on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Mendez, requesting that he inquire into Shoatz’s nearly 30 years of solitary confinement within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC). Shoatz is a 70-year-old, former Black Panther Party member who has been locked in solitary confinement at various state prisons for the past 22 consecutive years, and 28 of the past 30 years.

The request comes at a time when the campaign to release Shoatz from solitary confinement has been gathering increasing international attention. In August, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa marked the occasion of Maroon’s 70th birthday by sending a letter to PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel that read: “We also affirm, in the strongest possible humanitarian terms, that now is the time for the immediate and unconditional release from solitary confinement and restricted housing of Russell Maroon Shoatz. After decades of solitary confinement – including the past 22 consecutive years – there is no reason for further delay. Continued confinement in 23-hour-a-day isolation is nothing short of torture.”

For the last 23 years, Shoatz has had an impeccable disciplinary record, and has not received on serious rule violation during this time. Despite his model behavior, advancing years, and health problems, the PA DOC has refused to release this father, grandfather, great-grandfather, human rights advocate, and published author into the general prison population.

“The Special Rapporteur on Torture has recently spoken out about similar instances of extraordinary long-term solitary confinement in the United States in Pelican Bay state prison and in the case of the Angola 3. Like these cases, the solitary confinement of Russell Shoatz is yet another extreme violation of international human rights standards,” said Jules Lobel, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the attorney who submitted the document to the Special Rapporteur on Shoatz’s behalf.

Although Shoatz is still held in the solitary confinement unit, he has been permitted more out of cell time in recent weeks, as prison officials inform him that he is being assessed for release from isolation. On September 23, 2013, Shoatz began a 60-day step-down program where he is permitted out of his cell as a block worker for approximately one-hour Monday through Friday.

Although this program represents the most out-of-cell time Shoatz has been afforded since he was in federal prison in 1991, and the most in a PA DOC prison since 1983, there is no guarantee that he will eventually be released into the general population. Prison officials have stated that he will merely be considered for release after the completion of the program.

The communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture was submitted by Jules Lobel; Dan Kovalik, Senior Associate General Counsel for the United Steelworkers; Dustin McDaniel and Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center; and attorney Hal Engel.

The 14-page document observes that a 2011 report issued by the Special Rapporteur provided a “legal analysis . . . that resoundingly affirms the conclusion that U.S.-style solitary confinement units are prohibited under international law.” It called on the Special Rapporteur to “immediately initiate a prompt and comprehensive investigation into the facts surrounding Russell Maroon Shoatz’s nearly 30 years of solitary confinement in the PA DOC.”

 The communication concluded by recognizing that even if he is soon released from isolation, “It is vital that the egregious violations of Shoatz’s human rights are recognized by your office and the international human rights community more broadly, both for his own sake, and for the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who have been subjected to these conditions of social isolation and sensory deprivation in U.S. jails and prisons over the years.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Lawyers for Russell Maroon Shoatz submit request to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

Contact:          Bret Grote            412-654-9070

For more details see:

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