Father’s Day, Health Update, Interview with Selma James, and Albert Woodfox

June 2015 Newsletter

Greetings Maroon supporters,

Welcome back to our monthly e-mail blast on the status of U.S.-held political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz, and thanks again for your ongoing interest and support!

This month, we’re pleased to bring you the latest update on Maroon’s ongoing treatment for prostate cancer, a special Father’s Day note from Maroon’s daughter Sharon Shoatz, the first installment of a three-part interview with human rights champion Selma James, and an update on the status of longtime political prisoner Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3.

The campaign to free Maroon has some exciting events and actions brewing for the summer months, so please stay tuned for more info and feel free to be in touch  with your own ideas and connections to support our efforts.

Please also consider contributing to our ongoing fundraising for Maroon. No amount is too little, and all contributions are appreciated.

Special shout out to the supporter who read Maroon’s article, “After Ferguson and Looking Back” and wrote to dialogue with him about it. He was very uplifted that someone read his piece.  Connect with Maroon by writing to Russell Shoats #AF-3855 SCI-Graterford P.O. Box 246 Route 29 Graterford, PA 19426 – 0246

Straight ahead!
The Shoatz Family and Friends

Health Update:
Radiation Treatments Over

Maroon Writes:

My primary report is that I have continued with the radiation therapy, at the same cancer center, for the entire month of April and into the first day of May, 2015. Furthermore, there is movement on another major health concern regarding my right eye.

In addition to weathering common symptoms of the treatment, the fatigue is an entirely different matter! While both my oncologist and physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner have weekly examined me after the sessions, and offered advice on what foods to eat (which I’ve earnestly integrated into my treatment, in addition to what I’ve read, as well as my previous acquired knowledge concerning nutrition), the fatigue is still constant. I often feel like I cannot do much more than drag myself out of bed. And I have been sleeping more now than at any time as far back as I can remember!

Still I exercise 20 minutes or so and do some walking daily. That helps some, but otherwise my reading, writing/typing, and even socializing are at a very low level. According to the literature, my strength will gradually return after I am cured of the cancer—if that is to be…

On May 1, 2015, after the last treatment,  I was taken directly to the office of the ophthalmologist, who last year had recommended I have cataract surgery on my right eye, whereupon the Chief Health Care Administrator at Graterford had lied about me refusing this treatment. He examined me again, and once more is recommending said surgery for my eye. So stay tuned

Let me again, thank all who continue to extend support to my family and me, and let me assure everyone that it is not lost on me that my situation and person is a small matter in these heady times; times and events that are truly historic in regards to how countless thousands are standing up to oppression in ways that even have the potential to make the celebrated 1960s seem little more than a dress rehearsal in order to save ourselves from the maniacs who are bent on destroying our very planet!

Straight Ahead!

To read Maroon’s full detailed health journal follow this link to our website

My Father’s Day with Maroon
by Sharon Shoatz

Russell the III & Sharon

While driving on the New Jersey Turnpike in route to visit my father, my thoughts wandering endlessly about the tasks and responsibilities one is charged with on any given day, I began to sing along with the song “A Family Reunion” by the O’Jays that was playing on the radio. As the song came to the lyrics referencing the family being the solution to the world’s problems, and then poignantly describing each member’s role in the family, I realized that I couldn’t recall ever seeing, touching, or even speaking the words “Happy Father’s Day” to my dad on the actual holiday.

Having turned 50 years young this month, I can finally say that on Sunday, June 21, 2015, I spent a wonderful Father’s Day with my dad Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, my brother Russell the III, Dr. Kim Holder, and my name sake, aunt, and minister, Sharon Joy Shoatz-Mayazi.

I would like to devote this experience/revelation to all my fellow cubs who have experienced similar or very different revelations about their parents, be it their mother or father. I invite others to share and post their experiences and revelations as they relate to being the sibling, wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, or son of an activist. I’m sure we all have so much to reveal and so much to give.

Sister Aunt Sharon Joy Shoatz-Mayazi & Dr. Kim Holder

In my Don Cornelius voice: “The Mighty, Mighty O’Jays”…

You know the family is the solution
To the world’s problems today
Now, let’s take a look at the family
In the family the father is like the head, the leader, the director
Not domineering, but showing love, guidance
For everyone else in the family
Now, if we could get all the fathers of the world
To stand up and be fathers
That would be great

Selma James, writer, activist, co-founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign, and coordinator of Global Women’s Strike, is interviewed  by Raphael Cohen, for the campaign to free Maroon, in Oakland, California, April 25, 2015. Part 1 of 3, focusing on how James first learned about Shoatz’s case, imprisonment, and ideology, as well as her thoughts on coalition-building across various sectors of social justice movement work.

Free Albert Woodfox by Bret Grote

A federal judge in Louisiana ordered political prisoner and former Black Panther Albert Woodfox immediately released from prison last week, prohibiting the state from attempting to prosecute him for a third time for a 1972 homicide he was framed of. The order was short-lived, however, as a three-judge panel for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals placed a stay on the ruling in response to an appeal by the state of Louisiana. The matter has been assigned a briefing and argument schedule.

Woodfox’s release from prison would mean an end to his 42 years of solitary confinement. Woodfox’s permanent solitary confinement within the prisons of Louisiana was justified by Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain on the grounds that if he were released to the general prison population he would “practice Black Pantherism”. Similarly, documents obtained in Maroon’s legal challenge to his own long-term solitary confinement confirm that prison officials held him in isolation due to his continued affiliation with “radical” and “militant” groups, and his effectiveness as an organizer. Woodfox and Maroon have both been subject to unfathomable hell by the state in order to repress their leadership as well as make an example of those who dare to fight for the liberation of their people.

April 9, 2015
Greetings Maroon supporters worldwide!

It’s been a momentous last couple years in the long struggle to free our beloved father, uncle, grandfather, and comrade. Thanks to your persistent advocacy, Maroon’s case, and the political pretexts to his over forty years of confinement, have garnered widespread attention and sparked outrage from justice-seeking people across the globe.

As of April, 2015, we have launched a new web presence at WWW.RUSSELLMAROONSHOATZ.COM. There, we will be posting updates on Maroon’s health, legal efforts, writings, as well as related news, campaigns, and culture. If you are interested in contributing art, poems, essays, or articles to Maroon’s blog, please contact maroonconnect@gmail.com.

We have also begun a brand new Email Announcement List. Even if you think you are already connected with us, please follow the link and sign up!

For background on Maroon’s activism and imprisonment, please see his Case History on Our Website.

Maroon Has Started Cancer Treatment

After repeated delays in treatment earlier this year, followed by an emergency outside call-in effort in February, Maroon has begun radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Beginning to document his Chronology of Major Health Problems, Maroon writes:

“As a seventy one year old Political Prisoner I have spent over forty three continuous years in over twenty three jails, prisons and a maximum security mental institution, with over thirty of those years being held in solitary confinement.

During that period … the most challenging health issues I have been faced with … fall in two categories: major difficulties with both eyes, and prostrate problems that have developed into prostrate cancer.

Over the years I have struggled to PURCHASE large segments of medical records the prison and mental institutions compile on me. In the absence of a court order, no copies of these records have ever been available free-of-charge!

At the present time I am in possession of those records, and my legal team has also acquired more, since it’s almost certain we will soon have to institute legal action to compel the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and its medical contractor(s) to provide me with proper medical care.”

Spring Maroon Book and Culinary Tour 2015

On March 28th, we launched the Spring Maroon 2015 Book and Culinary Tour. We’ll be hosting community discussions based on writings in Maroon The Implacable, breaking bread with healthy food, and strategizing around Maroon’s recovery and freedom. Throughout the U.S., all spring long, Maroon’s son, Russell the III, will be leading these events, some of which will include smoothies made with the special ingredient “Maroon Moss,” a blend of sea vegetables, apples, kale and lemon! To see if the Spring Maroon Tour is stopping by a town near you, please see the Itinerary.

Stand With Mumia!

As with justice workers across the globe, we are very concerned about the treatment of Mumia Abu-Jamal during his recent decline in health. We urge you to connect with the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home and to Donate to Mumia’s Health Care Fund.  He needs independent, specialized medical attention, urgently. This is our major demand. We need to step up the pressure and oppose the attempt at state execution of Mumia by medical neglect. Free Mumia!

Social Media ‘Get Well’ Shout Outs for Maroon!

As we wish a speedy recovery and immediate medical justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal and his family, we want to inform supporters that Maroon has officially started the first of 44 treatments of radiation therapy. In light of Mumia’s current situation, the journey for the release of our loved ones and comrades has taken on a renewed sense of urgency. We must continue to raise the issue of medical treatment for an aging demographic of inmates in U.S. prisons. More importantly, we must stay vigilant in our conversations with loved ones regarding their medial records, Department of Corrections policies and procedures, and family rights. We have already lost many giants, men and women comrades in this struggle of revolution and freedom. We can’t lose them twice…

With the launch of the Spring Maroon Book and Culinary Tour, and our new online presence, we are asking supporters to send their thoughts to Maroon as he embarks on this medical journey. Your greetings can come in any form. Submit a spoken word piece, poem, music, rap, tweet, 30 second video, “get well” shout outs, etc. e-mail maroonconnect@gmail.com to have your greeting posted on the site,  and/or tweet @RussellMShoatz.

Support Maroon’s Global Network

As we embark on a renewed fight to bring Maroon home, the time has come for us to reach out to you for financial support. The Shoatz family has been the primary funder of this campaign since Maroon was initially locked up in the early 1970s. In the simplest of terms, we don’t have the resources to continue being this struggle’s main financial engine. Please hit the PayPal link below to contribute.

No amount is too little. Please also consider sharing this information with family members, friends, and colleagues who may be able to support.

We offer you our deepest gratitude, and our hope to celebrate greater victories with you in the months and years to come.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 2.44.26 PMStraight ahead!

The Shoatz Family and Friends


1 Year Anniversary of Maroon in General Population

February 24, 2015 –Written By Russell the III

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of my fathers release from solitary confinement into the general prison population at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Graterford. This long-sought move ended over 22 consecutive years in solitary confinement. It also marked the first time that Maroon had been in the general prison population in the state of Pennsylvania since 1983, when he was placed in solitary confinement due to his work with the Pennsylvania Association of Lifers to abolish life-without-parole sentences. For a 17-month period between 1989-1991, Maroon was held in the general prison population at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Maroon brought suit in May, 2013, on the grounds that he had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that prison officials had deprived him of his procedural and substantive due process rights for keeping him in solitary confinement without meaningful review and on insufficient grounds. He is represented by Reed Smith attorneys Rick Etter and Stefanie L. Burt; Bret Grote and Dustin McDaniel of the Abolitionist Law Center; Daniel Kovalik of the United Steelworkers; and retired Reed Smith partner, Hal Engel.

On Monday, January 27, 2014, United States District Magistrate for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Cynthia Reed Eddy, issued a decision denying defendants’ motion to dismiss in the case of Shoatz v. Wetzel. The ruling allowed Maroon to move forward with the legal challenge to his more than 22 consecutive years in solitary confinement.

The campaign to release Shoatz from solitary confinement has also been gathering increasing international attention, including the support of five Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Jody Williams from the United States, and Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina. Several U.S. civil and human rights organizations endorsed his release from isolation, as well as growing number of clergy.  In March, 2013, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Juan Mendez, called on the government “to cease the prolonged isolation of Mr. Shoatz.”

While Maroon’s release from solitary confinement proved a significant step forward in the campaign to free him from prison altogether, our work to bring him home continues. As many of you know, Maroon was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and was being denied adequate medical care. An emergency phone and letter-writing campaign directed at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections resulted in the onset of an aggressive course of cancer treatment.

The Shoatz family wishes to thank all those supporters who answered the call and advocated for Maroon. We’ll be keeping you abreast of developments in his treatment, and ask that you remain vigilant should the need to further advocate regarding his medical care in the coming weeks and months reemerge.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 2.44.26 PM
Theresa, Maroon, Sharon, & Russell III – February 2015


Prison Officials Deny Russell Maroon Shoatz Treatment for Prostate Cancer – Call Prison Today

Action Alert –Prison Officials Denying Russell Maroon Shoatz Treatment for Prostate Cancer – Call Prison Today

Political prisoner and former Black Panther Russell Maroon Shoatz #AF3855 was informed that he had prostate cancer on December 9, 2014. Prison medical staff has not provided any treatment to date. Cancer does not wait for the prison bureaucracy. Maroon’s health, his life, and his rights are being violated every moment he is denied necessary cancer treatment.

Call SCI Graterford and PADOC Secretary Wetzel today and demand that Maroon be provided immediate, necessary medical care for his prostate cancer.  
SCI Graterford Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz: 610-489-4151
SCI Graterford Chief Health Care Administrator Joseph Korszniak: 610-489-4151
PADOC Secretary John Wetzel: 717-728-4109

Please be firm and respectful when talking to prison staff.

Talking Points:
1)    Russell Shoatz was informed that he has prostate cancer on December 9, 2014. He has not received any treatment to date.
2)    The oncologist told him in December that the cancer was “aggressive” and that treatment should begin in January.
3)    A urologist told him in January that he was going to receive radiation treatment.
4)    There is no medical reason for a two-month delay prior to receiving necessary cancer treatment. Russell Shoatz needs immediate health care, and continued refusal to provide this is illegal, and puts his life at risk.


If you would like to write a letter in addition to a phone call please address and send to the following address:


Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz
PO Box 246
Graterford, PA 19426


Secretary Wetzel
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050