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.

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Theresa, Maroon, Sharon, & Russell III – February 2015


Spring Book Tour Schedule

2013 National Book Tour Calendar

Francis Goldin, friend of Maroon, hugs banner at rally in DC.

For a press kit and more information on the tour Click Here

“Maroon the Implacable: The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz”

Contact freemaroonshoatz@gmail.com for more information.

More Details Coming Soon!

Book Tour Schedule & Local Contacts

Monday, April 1, 2013: Amherst, MA
Contact person: Ana Lua Fontes
Email:  afontes@hampshire.edu
Location: Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) Faculty Lounge, Hampshire College, 893 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002
Event time: 6:00-9:00pm

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 Woodstock, VT
Contact person for event: Sonny Saul
Email: pleasantstreetbooks@comcast.net
Location: Pleasant Street Books, 48 Pleasant Street Books, Woodstock, Vermont, 05091
Time of event: 7:00-9:00pm

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 Ithaca, NY
Contact person for event: Max Ajl
Email address: max.ajl@gmail.com
Location: Cornell University, 410 Thurston Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
Time of event: TBD

Friday, April 5, 2013 Philadelphia, PA
Contact person for event: Theresa Shoatz
Email: tiye1120@gmail.com
Location: Anderson Hall Room 7, Temple University, 1114 W. Pollett Walk (N. 11 St. & W. Berks St), Philadelphia
Time of event: 7:30pm

Saturday, April 6, 2013 Washington D.C.
Contact person for event: Paulette Dauteuil
Email: albq.jericho@gmail.com
Location: UDC Clarke School of Law, 5th Floor, Room 4340, 4200 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008
Time of event: 7:00-9:00pm

Sunday, April 7, 2013 Baltimore, MD
Contact person for event: Sara McClean (organizer) & Babi Nati (owner of Everyone’s Place)
Email: Sara: sara.mcclean@gmail.com/Babi Nati: africanworldword@aol.com
Location: Everyone’s Place African Cultural Center, 1356 W North Ave., Baltimore, MD 21217
Time of event: 3:00-5:00pm

Monday, April 8, 2013 Nashville, TN
Contact person: Lisa Guenther
Email address: lisa.n.guenther@gmail.com
Location: Furman Hall 109, Vanderbilt University, 2201 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37235
Time of event: 5:00pm

Thursday, April 11, 2013 Chicago, IL
Contact person: Matt Meyer
Email: mmmsrnb@igc.org
Location: TBD
Time of event: TBD

Friday, April 12, 2013 Madison, WI
Contact person for event: Joshua Steuwer
Email: joshua@rainbowbookstore.coop
Location: Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative, 426 W Gilman St, Madison, WI 53703
Time of event: TBD

Sunday, April 14, 2013 St. Paul, MN
Contact person for event: Peter Rachleff & Abass Noor
Email: Peter: rachleff@macalester.edu/Abass: anoor@macalester.edu
Location: Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel, 1600 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105
Time of event: 7:00pm

Monday April 15, 2013 Austin, TX
Contact person: Rene Valdez
Email: consafos70@yahoo.com
Location: Multiple venues

  • Monday, April 15th – Location TBD
  • Tuesday, April 16th – UT Austin
  • Wednesday, April 17th – Austin Community College
  • Time of event: N/A

Sunday, April 21, 2013 Seattle, WA
Contact person: Dan Berger, Dana Barnett, Shon MeckFessel
Email: Dan: danberger81@gmail.com/Dana: danabarnett78@gmail.com
Location: Black Coffee Café, 501 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
Time of event: 4:00pm

 Monday, April 22, 2013 Santa Barbara, CA
Contact person: Diane Fujino & Matef Harmacchis
Email: Diane: fujino@asamst.ucsb.edu /Matef: mharm@hotmail.com
Location: UCSB Multicultural Center, University Center, Room 1504, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6050
Time of event: 5:00pm

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 Bay Area, CA
Contact person: Nischit Sarpangala Hegde, Tony Marks-Block, Annie Paradise, Lawrence Shoupe
Email: Nischit: sarpangala@gmail.com / Annie: aparadise@ciis.edu/ Tony: ynotrevolt@gmail.com/ Laurence Shoupe: larryshoup@earthlink.net
Location: Multiple venues

  • April 24th – Mills College, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94613-1301
  • April 24th – California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
  • April 28th – Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609-1113
  • April 28th – Eastside Cultural Alliance, 2277 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

Time of event: N/A

Help get Maroon out of Solitary!

Dear friends,

Russell “Maroon ” Shoats, has been held in solitary confinement for far too long!

Please be part of this coordinated effort to get him into general population. Paste the form letter below into your word processor, insert your information wherever you see the brackets and capitals, print, sign, and send to Secretary Wetzel.

Shoatz Family
Human Rights Coalition -FedUp! Chapter





Secretary Wetzel

2520 Lisburn Road

PO Box 598

Camp Hill, PA 17001

Secretary Wetzel:

I am writing your office today to express grave concern regarding an urgent human rights matter that requires your intervention. Russell Shoats (#AF-3855), a prisoner held at the State Correctional Institution Greene in southwestern Pennsylvania, has been kept in solitary confinement for more than 21 years, unable to hold his children or grandchildren or interact with others in a humane setting, despite not having violated prison rules in two decades. He has suffered severe psychological anguish and his physical health has been worsened by the stress of prolonged isolation.

This past year he was on the verge of being released from solitary confinement after the staff that he interacted with on a daily basis and top officials in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ Central Office approved a change in his custody status, but the prison’s Superintendent, Louis Folino, vetoed the release at the last minute.

Mr. Shoats has spent the last 39 years within the Pennsylvania prison system, and has earned a reputation amongst prison staff and prisoners both as a leader because of his being elected the President of the DOC-approved lifers organization at SCI Pittsburgh in 1982. While he did escape from a state institution more than 31 years ago, it is his role as an actual or potential leader that SCI Greene’s Superintendent Folino recently cited as the rationale for his continued lockdown in solitary. The PRC asserted that his past efforts at organizing prisoners and engaging in hunger strikes constituted a threat to the prison, despite the fact that Mr. Shoats has not engaged in any conduct violating prison rules in more than two decades.

Prison officials claim that Mr. Shoats is a security threat due to past escapes and attempts, though new evidence has surfaced suggesting that this determination was based substantially or in part upon secret and fraudulent evidence. It has recently come to our attention that classified information present in Mr. Shoats file for more than a quarter of a century that claimed he planned a takeover of a prison had been used as a confidential basis for holding him in solitary confinement. If that were true, it would not explain why he is the only prisoner being held in solitary on that basis unless it is also being alleged that he intended to take that action alone.

We are distressed that an elderly man who is nearing his 70th birthday continues to be treated in such a cruel manner based on his exercising of constitutionally-protected speech and in retaliation for his expressing political opinions disfavored by the prison administration. Not having committed an infraction in more than two decades reveals that Mr. Shoats is more than ready to re-enter the general prison population.

On behalf of Russell Shoats, his family, and community supporters, we ask you to initiate a probe into his continued warehousing in solitary confinement and assist human rights supporters in remedying this egregious wrong. We look forward to working with your office on this matter, and intend to remain in contact with you until this situation is addressed in accordance with fundamental norms of fairness and constitutional standards.