145 Organizations Support the Immediate Release of Russell Maroon Shoatz

To Governor Tom Wolf, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro:

We, the undersigned Pennsylvania human rights and criminal justice organizations, demand the immediate and unconditional release of Russell Maroon Shoatz and all elderly Pennsylvania prisoners who’ve contracted COVID-19.

Russell Maroon Shoatz is 77 years old. A dedicated community activist, Shoatz has been incarcerated and serving multiple life sentences since 1972, including nearly 30 years in solitary confinement. He has stage 4 colon cancer and on November 11th, tested positive for COVID-19. Shoatz and other people in prison who have tested positive are being held in inhumane and unsanitary conditions. Shoatz is also being denied an urgent surgery to aid his colon cancer.

As COVID-19’s full-blown resurgence in Pennsylvania prisons ravages the most medically vulnerable, there is no moral justification for keeping elderly and infirm individuals incarcerated. Indeed, as indicated in “Decarcerating Correctional Facilities during COVID-19: Advancing Health, Equity, and Safety”—a recent publication from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—“decarceration is an appropriate and necessary mitigation strategy to include in the COVID-19 response in correctional facilities” and “individuals assessed as medically vulnerable or of low risk to commit serious crime should be suitable candidates for release during a public health crisis.” In addition, the authors’ research found “that people convicted of violent offenses have lower overall recidivism rates for all age groups compared with individuals convicted of nonviolent offenses [and] the recidivism rates are particularly lower for people 55 and over.” At his advanced age and in his medically compromised state, Shoatz poses neither a threat to public safety nor a recidivism risk. The same is true for many elderly incarcerated people in the state.

The time is now to do what’s right, and to model for the rest of the country what a rational and ethical response to the impact of COVID-19 on society’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations looks like.

We demand your prompt attention to this urgent matter and await your action securing the release of Russell Maroon Shoatz.




Abolitionist Law Center

Afro Yaqui Music Collective

Agape Community

Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign

Amistad Law Project

Anti-Racist Action Los Angeles


Bay Area SURJ

Black Hammer Orginization

Black Lives Matter Philly

Black Panther Party

Black Panther Party Pittsburgh

Black People United

Black Philly Radical Collective

Books Through Bars

Burning Books

CADBI – Delaware County

Caldwell Catholic Community

Campaign to Bring Mumia Home

Coalition to Free Mumia Abu Jamal & All Political Prisoners – San Diego

Chiapas Support Committee

Church of the Overcomer

Corporate Campaign, Inc.


Data for Black Lives – Pittsburgh Hub

Dorothy Day Catholic Worker

Erie Gay News

Emanuel United Church of Christ

Food Not Bombs Solidarity

South Philly Food Not Bombs

West Philadelphia Food Not Bombs

Freedom Archives

Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition

Gettysburg College Peace & Justice Studies Student Council

Gospel Nonviolence Working Group–Association of United State Catholic Priests

Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities – HEARD

Human Rights Coalition

Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up!

Ignite Collective

JailBreak PGH

Jericho Movement

Jews Organizing for Liberation & Transformation (JOLT)

Justice Teams Network

KC Farm School

Learning For All Inc.

Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

Let’s Get Free: The Women & Trans Prisoner Defense Committee

Liberiamo L’Italia

Louisiana United International, Inc.

Maroon Global Network

Maroon Liberation School

Miracle Rose Bud



Movement Alliance Project

Mujeres que Luchan



New York City Jericho Movement

New York/New Jersey Cuba Si Coalition

No Cop Money PA

No Justice Under Capitalism

NSA 63rd Street Multicultural Academy of Academic Excellence

NYC Friends Of MOVE

NYC Free Peltier

Oakland Jericho

Organize The State Out

PA General Assembly

Payday Men’s Network

Pax Christi- Macon

People’s Organization for Progress

Philadelphia Community Bail Fund

Philly ABC

Philly Boricuas

Philly for REAL Justice

Philly Peace Park


Pittsburgh DSA

Pittsburgh Protests

Positive Women’s Network-USA

Prison Health News

Prison Radio

Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Workers World Party

Project Hands On Inc

Project South

Psychotherapy Partners, LLC

Rainbow & Thunderbilts MultiMedia Inc.

Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP

Repair The World Pittsburgh

Rowan University

SALT (Students for Abolition, Liberation, and Transformation)

Science & Society

Science on the Go!

Sero Project, Inc.

Seton Hall University – Concerned 44

Solidarity & Mutual Aid Jersey City

Squad is Squad Worldwide LLC

SV DeBug

Timbuctu African Study Collective


Buddy Speaks Foundation

U.P.A.L (United parents against the lead)

Midwives Garden

Magic’s Music

47/78 byLlc

Spa Doulah-Lah, LLC

SS. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker

Students for Abolition, Liberation, and Transformation

SURJ Westchester

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons

The Center for Carceral Conmunities

The MOVE Organization

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign

The Real Cost of Prisons Project

The WomXn’s Freedom Collective Party

Ubuntu Philadelphia

University of Pennsylvania

Radical South Asian Collective – University of Pennsylvania

Religious of the Sacred Heart

Student Labor Action Project – University of Pennsylvania

Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation

Penn Student Power

Penn Benjamins

Lambda Alliance

African-American Arts Alliance

Sphinx Senior Society

Coalition Against Fraternity Sexual Assault – University of Pennsylvania

Police Free Penn

Wear Your Voice Magazine

Women Lifers Resume Project of PA

World War 3 Illustrated

Wright Institute



Zion Travelers Baptist Church of Peeltown, TX.

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