Greetings Maroon supporters,
Hope this message finds you in good health and spirits. In this month’s newsletter, we bring you word of a tremendous development in Maroon’s suit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, an update on the recent release of long-held political prisoner Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, and a reminder about the Maroon Wear Fashion Freedom Fundraiser, coming up this weekend in Philadelphia.
As always, please feel free to contact us directly with your own ideas and connections to bolster our efforts in support of Maroon and all u.s.-held political prisoners.
Please also consider contributing to our ongoing fundraising for Maroon. No amount is too little, and all contributions make an impact.
Also, as we mentioned last month, Maroon is very interested in dialoguing with supporters around current social justice issues, and responding to any questions you may have with regard to the essays he penned in Maroon The Implacable or the ones that we periodically post on this site. He’d love to hear what topics you think he should address in future writings, so feel free to reach out and begin or continue a conversation with him.
Connect directly by writing to Russell Shoats #AF-3855, SCI-Graterford, P.O. Box 246 Route 29, Graterford, PA 19426 – 0246
The Shoatz Family and Friends
Federal Judge Eddy Rules on Maroon’s Behalf!
Earlier this month, we received word that Federal Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy of the U.S. District Court of Western Pennsylvania ruled that Maroon’s suit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for violations of his 8th and 14th Amendment rights must go forward and be decided by a jury trial. As many of you know, we’ve just celebrated the two-year anniversary of Maroon’s release into the general prison population at SCI Graterford, following his over 22 consecutive years in solitary confinement.
Maroon’s legal team had filed a lawsuit on his behalf shortly before the release, stating that such long-term solitary confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of due process. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections had sought summary judgment of the case, arguing that Maroon’s claims were moot and that it was protected by qualified immunity. Judge Eddy denied this motion, and instead recognized that the risks and harms faced by Maroon and corroborated by Dr. James Gilligan were sufficiently serious and obvious enough to Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and SCI Greene warden Louis Folino that a jury could find for Shoatz on all claims. This is a major victory, and represents the first time in the country that long-term solitary confinement will be put on trial.
No trial date has been set yet, but we applaud the work of Maroon’s entire legal team and will obviously keep you up to speed on any and all developments. Please take a moment to read Victoria Law’s article “How a Former Black Panther Could Change the Rules of Solitary Confinement,” published this week in The Nation, for a fuller break-down of this significant new, and how Maroon’s case could have far-reaching implications for all U.S. prisoners held in solitary confinement.
In addition to the positive news regarding Maroon’s case, we learned this week that Albert Woodfox, held in solitary confinement for over 43 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, was finally freed. Though justice was long denied in Albert’s case, we nevertheless celebrate and take inspiration from his release, and hope for more outcomes of this sort for our many still-held political prisoners.
As our friends at Democracy Now! stated in their February 22nd broadcast, “The former Black Panther spent more time in solitary confinement than anyone in the United States, much of it in a six-by-nine cell for 23 hours each day. Albert Woodfox was released Friday after he entered a plea of no contest to charges of manslaughter and aggravated burglary of a prison guard more than four decades ago.
Prior to Friday’s settlement, his conviction had been overturned three times. Albert Woodfox was serving a five-year sentence for armed robbery at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola when he and fellow prisoner Herman Wallace were accused in 1972 of stabbing prison guard Brent Miller. The two men always maintained their innocence, saying they were targeted because they had organized a chapter of the Black Panther Party to address horrific conditions at the Angola prison, a former cotton plantation. Woodfox, Wallace, and a third man, Robert King, became collectively known as the Angola 3. For decades, Amnesty International and other groups campaigned to free the three men. Woodfox was the last remaining member of the group to be released.”
For a comprehensive discussion about this decision, Woodfox’s reasons for accepting a plea deal, the Angola 3’s history, and their still pending civil lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Corrections, please watch Albert’s first televised interview since being freed, with Democracy Now!, here
Fashion Freedom Fundraiser
Finally, the Maroon Wear Fashion Freedom Fundraiser, themed
“The Mahogany Stroll,” takes place this Saturday, February 27th, from 3 to 8 pm, at 1Art, 1431-39 N. 52nd Street, in Philadelphia.
Featuring one-of-a-kind designer pieces from Hamlet’s Vintage in New York City, Zed’s Gifts and African Cultural Arts Forum in Philadelphia, as well as limited edition collectors items from socially conscious designers who are donating their talents to raise funds for and awareness around Maroon’s case, this free and child-friendly show is not to be missed!
Please come out if you’re in the area, and if you’re not, please share word of the event with anyone you know who is. We’ll not only be celebrating the latest advances in Maroon’s case, but highlighting the brilliant artwork created by members of Maroon’s broader support community. Look forward to seeing you there!
Many thanks and much respect for your ongoing support and solidarity,
The Shoatz Family and Friends