For nearly 50 years, a man of faith by the name of Russell Shoatz has remained behind bars in the Pennsylvania state prison system.

Russell has been imprisoned, incarcerated and caged since the reign of racist terror that former Philadelphia police commissioner, and later mayor, Frank Rizzo showered upon his constituents. Russell endured 30 years of inhumane solitary confinement, and even amidst a lifetime of caging, set himself on a clear path of faith and mentorship to people inside and outside of the prison walls, ourselves included.

When he was released from solitary confinement, after winning a civil suit against the department of corrections, Russell’s life entered a new phase of trial: his health. Over the past few years, he suffered first from prostate cancer and then was diagnosed in 2019 with colorectal cancer. He survived 12 rounds of chemotherapy before being approved for surgery to remove his primary cancerous mass in fall of 2020. In October of 2020, prison guards infected the prisoners of State Correctional Institute Dallas (PA) with COVID-19 and Russell was placed into lockdown and later diagnosed with the deadly virus. After months of delays, he finally received his surgery only to find that the cancer had again metastasized. In the spring of 2021, it was confirmed that he has terminal Stage 4 colorectal cancer.

In conversations since, Russell has expressed that he is at peace with entering the transition from life to death, and his desire to spend his final days surrounded by family and close friends. With this declaration, his legal team at the Abolitionist Law Center in Pennsylvania, filed a petition for medical transfer to home hospice care in July. The grounds were that he had met all of the necessary requirements, including being of model behavior, being unable to walk without the use of a wheelchair or other medical assistance devices, and that a prison environment cannot and will not support proper care for Russell and his rapidly deteriorating health.

The hearing was scheduled for August 3rd, 2021 and after receiving all arguments and letters in support of Russell’s medical transfer, the hearing was called into recess for a week.

On August 12th, 2021, Judge Kai Scott declared that she believed in redemption, that she believed that every person had a right to die in comfort, surrounded by loved ones. However when she had the authority to do so, she was denied the release of Russell to hospice care. It was her belief that this 78 year old elder is a threat to the community. This elder Russell Shoatz, has mentored hundreds, inspired thousands with his spirit, faith, strength and love, and is now suffering greatly under the weight of the disease that will claim his life. Russell is not a threat to the community nor anyone outside of his community, even to those that seek to have him remain imprisoned.

And thus, we ask you today for your support. Please join us as we pray for Russell every Monday, Thursday and rain-day. We ask that you consider how you can support our caged elders and their families. We ask you to join an alliance of other faith leaders, committing to speak out to your congregations about the story of Russell Shoatz. It is not unique, it is the story of many, but it is a story that is unfolding NOW.

We invite you to join us in conversation and in action. We would like to learn about what community work is important to you, your faith and your congregation. We would also like to learn how you and your congregation can support Russell, a father, a son, an elder and a man of faith, in devotion, love, and service to God.

Please click link and sign Google Form below

Letter in Support of Compassionate Release for Russell Maroon Shoatz

Letter in Support of Compassionate Release for Russell Maroon Shoatz

Russell Maroon Shoatz was denied compassionate release in August despite serious life-threatening medical conditions by Judge Kai Scott, on the grounds that he presents “an undue risk of escape or danger to the community.” Please sign the following letter in support of Shoatz and his desire to transition in the presence of loved ones.


The Honorable Kai Scott

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas-Philadelphia

708 65th Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19126

Dear Judge Kai Scott,

We, the undersigned, write to you with a sense of urgency—to reconsider your recent denial to hospice care for Russell “Maroon” Shoatz (Russell Shoats, # AF3855), who turned 78 on August 23rd, 2021.

You ruled that Russell Shoatz presented “an undue risk of escape or danger to the community.” We believe that this ruling may have been made with outdated and mistaken information, given that Shoatz has terminal, stage-4 pancreatic cancer, is wheelchair bound and unable to walk, is partially blind, is urinary catheter bag dependent, and is a recent survivor of COVID-19. In this extremely weakened state, it is hard to understand how living his last moments surrounded by family in a court-ruled hospice setting would present any danger whatsoever.

As you know, Shoatz’ sentence was life in prison, but we believe any humanitarian interpretation of his situation today suggests that the current ruling indicates, in effect, a death penalty re-sentencing. Nearly half of his 49 years of incarceration were held while in solitary confinement, itself a condition which warranted reconsideration—as Nobel Peace Laureates and human rights experts across the world successfully called for. We now believe that a similar reconsideration is necessary, based on any interpretation of United States and Pennsylvania law, as well as common-sense spiritual and ethical mandates. This case showcases the appropriate conditions for compassionate release.

There is ample evidence that Russell Shoatz remains a loving father, grandfather, family man, and community elder. We pray for and respectfully request an immediate re-thinking of this important matter.


Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee (1947 Nobel Peace Laureate)

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva

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list of signatories

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate

Robin D. G. Kelley, 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences,Los Angeles    

Raqueeb Ajamu-Osagboro, The Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-op, Pittsburgh   

Mr. Five Mualimm-ak, Incarcerated Nation Network INC, Bronx    

Keith Collins, Church of the Overcomer, Trainer    

John P. Clark, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana    

Benjamin Matthew Barson, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Music, Pittsburgh    

Magdalena Gomez, Poet Laureate, Springfield, MA 2019-2022    

Dr. Nancy Arvol, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Richmond CA.    

Liz Brown Free Maroon Now!, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania

Laura Whitehorn, Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP, New York, NY.    

Romeo Gonzalez, Youth Anti Prison Project, Bronx    

Willow Katz, End Solitary, Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, California    

Sara DeVincenzi, Stop Mass Incarceration Network, New York , NY.    

Kelly Flores, LAUSD Teacher & Parent, Los Angeles, CA.    

Susanna Martin, Prison Health News, Philadelphia    

Karpani Burns, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, San Francisco CA.    

Dr. Suzanne Ross, Intl. Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, New York, NY.    

Aixa Kendrick, Rainbow & Thunderbolts MultiMedia INC., Harlem , NY.    

Shepard Paul McDaniel, CCW, New York, NY.    

Leigh Brownhill, Fergus, Ontario    

Daniel R Barson, PITTSBURGH    

LeRoy Beck III, Marshall, MN   

 Adam Cooper-Terán, Philadelphia, PA.    

Susan Kingsland, BROOKLYN, NY    

Lavinia Davis, Philadelphia, PA.    

Kate Lochner, Madison, WI.    

Anne Boylon, Grand Rapids, Michigan    

Allison L Brown, Brooklyn    

Vera Brooks, New York, N.Y.    

Elizabeth Mickel, New York    

PEGGY CHOY, Madison WI    

Eileen Weitzman, Brooklyn NY.     

Cindy I-Fen Cheng, Madison, WI.    

Arlene Tracy Adams, Thee Girl Shop, Bronx     

AUSTIN E HACKMAN, Pittsburgh, PA.   

Beni Rossman, Los Angeles, CA.   

Thomas Cox, Brooklyn NY.   

Kevin Fellezs, NY, NY.    

Cindy Lou, Food Not Bombs Solidarity, Phila, PA.    

Sarah S. Saul, Portland Maine    

Nejma Nefertiti, Afro Yaqui Music Collective, Brooklyn, NY.    

Ana Isla, St Catharines    

Matthew Guldin, Brooklyn, New York    

Woodrow Steinken Wilmette, IL.    

Juan Duchesne, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania    

Frank D. Brown, Northeast POLITICAL PRISONER Coalition, Flushing    

Mary Patten, Chicago

Elizabeth Roberts, Northvale, NJ    

Elizabeth Barnet, Inverness, California    

susie day, New York, NY.    

Khalid Raheem, National Council for Urban Peace and Justice,  Pittsburgh, PA.

Anita Rosenblithe, New York, NY.    

Laura Weiner, New York, NY.    

Jonathan Keller, NEW YORK    

Kazi A. Toure, Jericho Amnesty Movement, 400 E. Squantum St. #202, Quincy, Ma. 02171    

Jacob Kopcienski, Columbus, Ohio    

Gwendolyn Debrow, Ozone Park New York    

Sheila Hamanaka, NEW YORK, NY.    

Matef Harmachis, Goleta, CA.    

anna berg, NY. NY     

Margaret Seely, New York, NY.    

Causby, Tinton Falls NJ.    

Jean Behrend, Atkinson, NH.    

Mai Khoi, Pittsburgh. PA 15212    

Diana Alvarez, Holyoke, MA.    

Nguyen Fred, NJ.    

Maria Luisa Arroyo, Springfield, MA.    

Jeffrey Meyer, Lyman, ME.     Nina Olff, Brookline MA.    

Rafael Outland, Rochester    

Cerene Roberts, NY NY.    

Claude Marks, Freedom Archives San Francisco, CA    

George Goodwin, Boothbay, Maine    

Fiona Burgess, Portland, OR

Michael O. West, State College, PA    

Ian Baran, Culver City, CA.    

Diana Block, California Coalition for Women Prisoners Oakland, CA.    

Sara Olson, St. Paul, MN.     

Tony Marks-Block, Oakland, CA.    

Emery Jenson, Madison, WI.    

Kimberly Starr, Detroit, MI.    

Bergman, Santa Rosa CA.    

jennifer black prison radio, state college, pa.    Leslie James Pickering, Burning Books, Buffalo, NY.    

Antony Martel, Wolcott, Vermont    

Jaan Laaman, Jericho, Delaware, Ohio    

Nandita Sharma, Kaneohe, HI.    

Harry Saul jr, Pleasant St Books, Woodstock, Vermont    

Anne Lamb, NYC Jericho Movement, Bronx, New York    

Vajra Kilgour, New York, NY.    

Naomi Rosenblatt, New York

Tekla Ali Johnson, NC Jericho, Kings Mountain    

Masai Ehehosi, ATLANTA    

Robert McBride, Oakland, CA     

Mr. José Alfaro, LCSW, Bx., NY.    

Vicki Legion, San Francisco CA. 

Diane Fujino, Santa Barbara, CA.    

Melanie West, Evanston IL.    

Neo Ekwueme, NEPPC, Cape Girardeau MO.    

Clare T Grady, Ithaca NY.    

Marina Celander, Brooklyn, NY.    

Leslie Mullin, San Francisco    

Robert MacFarlane, John Brown Brigade, Rochester, New York    

Beth Harris, Ithaca    

mo nishida, azn’s 4 jericho/mumia and lil tokyo 4 peace LOS ANGELES, california 99012    

Nate Buckleys, Buffalo    

M. Fu, San Diego, CA.    

Sarah Torres, Detroit    

Samuel Maull, Albany, CA.    

Emory Douglas, SAN FRANCISCO    

Adwoa Oni, Newark, CA.     

Jane Segal, San Francisco, California    

Sherry L Barson San Rafael, CA.    

Alina Dollat, Chaumont en vexin in France    

Eliza Fisher, Inglewood, California    

Fran Luck Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio at WBAI, New York City    

Dawn Reel, New York, NY.    

Quincy Saul, Woodstock, Vermont    

Brad Balliett, Maroon Party for Liberation, New York, NY.    

Heinz Leitner, Vienna, Austria Europe    

Joy James, New York    

James Kilgore, Urbana Illinois    

Dr. Jean A. Douthwright, New Smyrna Beach, FL.    

China Brotsky, San Francisco    

Nina Dibner, Brooklyn NY.    

Mary Loehr, Ithaca, NY.    

kathryn russell, TC SURJ, Ithaca    

Gail Steinhart, Ithaca, NY.    

Erik D Franze, Waukesha, WI.    

Ericka Huggins, Oakland, California

Noah Theriault, Pittsburgh, PA.    

Liz Kaufman, St. Paul, MN.   

Mel Packer, Pittsburgh Pa.

Jay Ting Walker, Green Party of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania    

Kevin Pham New York, NY.    

Fernando S Fernando, Los Angeles     

Noah Cohen, Cambridge, MA.    

Charmaine Chua, The Abolition journal Collective, Santa Barbara, CA.    

Miguel Torres, Fighting Racism Workshop, Berlin    

Barbara Parmet, Santa Barbara, California    

Jonah McAllister-Erickson, Pittsburgh PA.    

Jack Harkins, Ithaca    

R. Scott Harrison, Swissvale Borough, Pennsylvania    


Carolina Saldana, Amigos de Mumia, Mexico City, Mexico    

kazi A. Toure, Jericho National Movement, 400 E. Squantum St. #202 Quincy, MA. 02171    

Maryam Kashani, Chicago, IL.    

Ercan Ayboga, Frankfurt, Germany    

Carlin Christy, Pittsburgh, PA.    

Bernie Eisenberg, Los Angeles    

Don Swall, Eureka, CA 95501    

Margaret Stofsky, Eureka     

Hazel Pinder, Freeport    

Jane Lapiner, Petrolia, CA. 95558    

Sharyn Dreyer, Denver    

Analisa Svehaug, New York, NY.    

peter jon mueller, arcata, california    

patricia kanzler, eureka    

Laura guldin, arcata, ca.    

Luette M Saul, Portland    

Bill Meyer, OneHamtramck, Hamtramck MI.    

Emma Nation, Arcata, California    

Brandy Lara, Eureka, ca. 

Miles Murray, Oakland    

Fredom, Columbia, Missouri, 

Rudy F Ramp, Arcata, CA.    

Amanda Bloom, Oakland CA.    

Charles Sharpe, Bayside CA.    

Michael Twombly, Sacramento CA.    

Betina Garsen, Eureka Ca.    

Hannah Godwin, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania    

Richard Rothschiller, Honolulu, Hawaii    

Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro, Ecosocialist Horizons, New Paltz, NY.    

MICHAEL BISHOP, Dryden-Groton Plus Human Dignity Coalition, FREEVILLE NY.    

dequi kioni-sadiki, Brooklyn    

Ethel Paris, Fairfield Iowa 52556   

David Cobb, Cooperation Humboldt Eureka     

spiritchild, maroon party for liberation, New York New York    

Rosaleen B Martin-Knoepfel, URBAN ART BEAT, New York    

Kimberly Knight, Trumansburg    

Marcus Rediker, Pittsburgh, PA.    

Anna Henry, Berkeley    

Mrs. A. Pond, Eureka, CA.    

AbdudDharr Abdullah, Appomattox   

Marco, Chicago, IL.    

gloria Peace, Flossmoor    

David Lemieux, Chicago Illinois    

A Kane, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, Alameda, CA.   

Elizabeth Cobb, Ithaca, NY.     

Crystaline Charity, Chicago, Illinois    

Roberta Wallitt, Ithaca, NY.    

Margherite Therese, Atlanta, GA.    

Mark Dilley, Detroit, Michigan    

Tito Rivera, Zulu Department of Community Affairs, Queens, NY.    

Micaollin L Rivera, Queens, NY    

Diyana N Rivera, Queens, NY.    

Sarah Bayer, Cambridge, MA.    

Tamara R Hurst, Stockton, CA.    

Hakim Coriano, Norwalk, CT.    

George Clark, Eureka, California    

Siatta Kaba, Maroon party for liberation, Richmond, Virginia

Cecil K. Brooks, Jr., Mott Haven Capital Partners, Bronx, NY.    

Bethanie Corona, Maroon Party For Liberation, Brooklyn New York, 

Gerald Pierre Cadet, Necessary Entertainment, Queens Village, NY.    

Jonathan, Brooklyn New York   

Jennifer Capotorto, Commack, NY.

Safiyyah Abdullah, Appomattox    

karla biery, maroon party for liberation chicago,il   

Nawal Abdelqader, YA-YA Network, Brooklyn, NY.    

Myra Igwe, Chicago, IL.

Brandon Alonzo, Flushing, New York   

Jackson Kusiak, Human Rights Coalition, Philadelphia, PA.    

Luz Cespedes, Bronx, NY.    

Jose Almonte, Bronx NY.    

Regina Jennings, Philadelphia, PA.    

Caroline Hugh, MPH, New York    

Naomi Miller, New York, New York    

Harry Donnelly, Cherry hill, N.J.    

Ann Jaffe, NYC Jericho, Bronx, New York    

Robert Buncher, Pittsburgh, PA.    

Elizabeth brioso, Brooklyn Ny.    

Mia ari, Brooklyn ny.     

Kathleen McHugh, Brooklyn NY.    

frankie farb, Brooklyn, NY    

Michael Victor, Brooklyn, New York    

Gabriel Aldana, New York, NY.    

Carl Gelderloos, Ithaca, NY.    

Jeremy garcia, Queens new york    

Christian Durán, Free Em All NJ, Maplewood, New Jersey, 

Pierreson Miracke, Brooklyn , NY.    

Corey Short, Brooklyn NY.     

Sophia Williams, Bronx, NY.

Jannez Wade, Eureka CA.   

Margaret MacDonald Power, Illinois Coalition Against Torture,Chicago    

Zayid Muhammad, Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, Brooklyn NY.    

Julia Wright, Paris, France

Leslie Schultz Ithaca Catholic Worker, Ithaca, NY

Henry Hagins Free Mumia Abu Jamal Coalition-NYC New York

Tova Fry, West Orange, New Jersey

Ben Wrubel, ITHACA

Anne Sternberg, Northfield, VT

Laurie Konwinski, Ithaca NY

Hanifah Shoatz-Bey, Atlanta, GA

Jenna Bader, Arcata, CA

Keita Bryant, Philadelphia, PA

Kevin Manion, Elkins Park, PA

John Bartlett, Chicago, IL

Rafael Outland, Rochester

Jessica Antonio, San Jose CA

Elspeth Meyer, Brooklyn NY

Sarah Torres, Detroit, MI

Ricardo Alvarez, San Francisco, California

Aisha Rodriguez, New York , NY

Marcella Eversole, Be Love In Action, Putney, VT 

Hilary Lake, Petoskey, Michigan

Kendall Jackman, Bronx, NY

Emma, Detroit, Michigan

Eric Gjertsen, As Wyomissing, PA

Adriana Guzman, Buffalo State College, Buffalo NY

Barbara Gurley, Global Women’s Strike (Women of Colour), Philadelphia

dilson hernandez, Bronx, NY

Shauna King, Marblehead MA

Mariana Spillane, Boston, MA

Julia Cathcart, Boson, MA

Maxwell A. Chadran, Harvard

Dianne Mathiowetz, Workers World Party, Atlanta, Georgia

Jennifer Marie Lumber, Eureka

Christina Knoepfel, Putney, Vermont 

Sean O’Hern, Richmond, VA

Robert Damewood, Pittsburgh, PA

Roth, John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, San Francisco, CA

Robert Schupp, Brooklyn, NY

Nathaniel Ashley, Tennessee Valley Mutual Aid, Greeneville

tony hintz, Chicago

Masaru Koga, Brooklyn

George Lipsitz

Toby Emmer

Preeti Pandey

Saniya Greenhow

Jane Segal

Ann Jaffe

Nina Dibner

Susan Saxe

Valerie Haynes

Valerie Morgan

Vanette Jordan-Lumogo

Carmen Guerrero

efia nwangaza

Manuela Yeboah

Sandra Joy

Jenny Cobuzzi

Ife Damon

Rashad al-Amreeki

Greg Hogan

Mrs. Dee-Dee Haw

Amanda Pratt

Stephen Durham

Ayman Nassar

Ibrahim Ansari

Rama Izar

Endia G.

Sheila Khan

Anita Rosenblithe

Max Flomen

Delia Perez Meyer

Hilary Lake