May 8, 2013: Pittsburgh PA — Lawyers for Russell “Maroon” Shoatz filed a lawsuit today against Pennsylvania Department of Corrections officials, demanding an end to almost 30 years of solitary confinement. Maroon is a 69-year-old former Black Panther, author and intellectual who has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for more than 22 consecutive years (and 28 of the past 30 years).
Contact: Bret Grote firstname.lastname@example.org 412-654-9070
Dan Kovalik email@example.com 412-562-2541
Members of Shoatz’s legal team and their supporters will hold a press conference at 12:00 noon outside the Pittsburgh City-County Building to discuss the case.
Maroon continues to be held in conditions of 23-24 hour solitary confinement in a tiny concrete and steel cell at SCI Mahanoy, despite having an exemplary disciplinary record for the past 23 years. He has been held in this manner in several Correctional Institutions throughout Pennsylvania, including the last 18 years at SCI Greene.
Dan Kovalik, one of Maroon’s lead attorneys, noted that “this type of long-term solitary confinement can only be characterized as torture. It violates a growing international consensus against such confinement, and it violates the Constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.”
The lawsuit names PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, State Correctional Institution (SCI) Greene Superintendent Louis Folino, and SCI Mahanoy Superintendent John Kerestes as defendants. Attorneys Stefanie Lepore and Rick Etter from the law firm Reed Smith, and Dustin McDaniel of the Abolitionist Law Center join Kovalik in representing Maroon.
This lawsuit comes on the heels of a 30-day advocacy effort led by the Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz, a newly formed coalition with affiliates in twenty cities across the US. Endorsers such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Lawyers Guild, the American Friends Service Committee (Northeast Region), and others participated in a call-and-write-in campaign to demand an immediate release of Maroon into prison “general population.”
“While heartened that prison officials have indicated to Maroon, his legal team, and members of the public that they intend to release him into the general population at some time in the future,” noted Campaign co-chair Matt Meyer, “we believe that 22 consecutive years in solitary is too much torture for anyone to endure. Every minute Maroon is forced to live under these conditions is a minute of fundamental human rights abuse.”
“It is long past time that the torture of my father is brought to an end,” added Maroon’s daughter Theresa Shoatz. “We intend to keep up the advocacy until he is released into the general population, and is able to embrace his family for the first time in more than 20 years.”
PA DOC officials have refused to give a timeline when Maroon might be released from solitary confinement, or provide a reason for his continued isolation.