*January 16, 2014*: 70-year-old Russell Maroon Shoatz, held in solitary confinement for a total of 30 years, has – for the third time in less than six months – been moved to a new prison amidst promises of eventual release into general population but actual emergency-level, dungeon-like conditions. Nobel Peace prize recipients Jody Williams (USA) and Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Argentina) have now joined the call for immediate release made by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and two additional Nobel laureates; Maroon supporters remain vigilant and concerned about the political game-playing behind these delays.
“Maroon’s new cell at SCI Graterford is under the ground, with human waste on the wall and no blanket in a freezing cell as his greeting upon arrival,” reported Ayanna Ra’uf, Maroon’s fiancé and spokesperson, who was able to talk briefly with him on the phone. Even the most conservative prison guards and officials at SCI Frackville, where Maroon was housed over the past months, were shocked by the sudden move; they had been won over to the justice of his cause by his cooperation and full adherence to prison regulations during a sixty-day step-down program which Maroon completed in late November. Despite consistent promises that the step-down program, if properly completed, would lead to a formal recommendation for release from solitary, once again the actions of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) reveal more continued isolation and roadblocks.
“While we are glad that the lawyers for PA DOCS seem amenable to Maroon’s transfer to general population,” noted Ra’uf, “we cannot take anything they say for granted. Yesterday they told members of Maroon’s legal team that all prison officials involved in the decision-making process support Shoatz’ release into general population, and that he could be out of solitary in approximately one month’s time. Given the fact that we have been told this recently at least twice before, it is hard to keep hoping that they will do the right thing.” Litigation against PA DOC challenging Maroon’s continued restricted housing is set to move forward later this month.
The time is now to FLOOD SCI Graterford with letters, postcards and notes SENT TO Maroon HIMSELF, with the simple message – to him and to the authorities – that he is in our thoughts, and that we are watching and closely monitoring this unacceptable turn of events. We must let Maroon and SCI Graterford Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz know that a continuation of business as usual WILL NOT STAND. As we count down thirty days to the latest promise of when Maroon should be moved into general population, we must prepare to let all the authorities in Pennsylvania and the DOC know that no one’s career can be built on the back of Maroon’s continued torture.
*SEND LETTERS, POSTCARDS, AND SHORT, SIMPLE MESSAGES OF SUPPORT and LOVE to: Russell Maroon Shoatz #AF-3855, P.O. Box 244, Graterford, PA 19426-0246
– We are concerned members of the community who are monitoring the situations involving inmate Russell Shoatz and the conditions he is being held under, AND
– We are respectfully 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 are frustrated and angry at the continued delays, and unfulfilled promises, regarding inmate Russell Maroon Shoatz.
– 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.
– 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.
Political support for Maroon is broadening and intensifying, as a recent Holiday Call – signed by the five Nobel laureates and assorted local clergy and lay people – demanded his immediate release from solitary, stating “the time has long since passed” since such a transfer should have taken place. Signatories to the Call include Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry of House of the Lord Church (New York), founder of the African People’s Christian Organization and founding chair of the National Black United Front; Dustin Washington, Director of the Community Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee (PA); Rev. David Billings, life-long civil rights activist and co-founder of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (Mississippi); Rev. Graeme Brown, former President of the Federal Theology Seminary of Southern Africa; Stacia Murphy, former President of the National Council on Alcoholism an Drug Dependence; Rev. Daniel Jantos, United Church of Christ (Vermont); Rev. Dr. Clyde Kuemmerle, Ecclesia Ministries of New York; Safiya Bandele, former Director of the CUNY/Medgar Evers Center for Women’s Development; Linda Arinna Weisman, Buddhist minister and author (California); Sister Sheba Haven (California), and many others.
EVERYONE READING THIS SHOULD LET EVERYONE THEY KNOW KNOW THAT LETTER-WRITING MUST BEGIN AGAIN! *THE FALSE PROMISES AND LIES MUST END NOW! * *MAROON’S TORTURE MUST END NOW! * *SOLITARY CONFINEMENT MUST END NOW!!*