The Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz has announced that three Nobel Peace Laureates have declared their support for his immediate release into the general prison population after more than 22 consecutive years in isolation.
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.”
Maroon has been held in solitary confinement by the PA DOC since 1983. The last time he was in the general prison population was when he was held for 18 months in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas between 1989-1991. Despite not having any serious rule violations for more than 20 years – his only violation was for covering a vent in his cell that was blowing cold air – the PA DOC continues to hold him in isolation on the basis that he is an “escape risk” in the general prison population. Maroon is 70 years old with various medical conditions including prostatitis, peripheral artery disease, hypertension, and a cataract in one eye.
Ramos-Horta, Maguire, and Archbishop Tutu’s support joins more than 30 organizations calling for an end to the torture of Maroon, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and the American Friends Service Committee PA Program & New England Region.
A lawsuit was filed in the Western District Court of Pennsylvania on May 8, 2013, challenging Maroon’s continued isolation as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and on the grounds that his due process rights are being violated. The case is currently being litigated.