[Pnews] Settlement reached in case which challenged the 22-year solitary confinement of political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 11 11:06:22 EDT 2016
*Settlement reached in /Shoatz v. Wetzel/*
July 11, 2016: Pittsburgh PA
A settlement has been reached in the case of /Shoatz v. Wetzel/, which
challenged the 22-year solitary confinement of Abolitionist Law Center
client and political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz
This brings an end to litigation begun in 2013. In February 2014,
following an international campaign on behalf of Shoatz, he was released
from solitary confinement.
In exchange for Shoatz ending the lawsuit the Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections (DOC) has agreed that it will not place Shoatz back in
solitary confinement based on his prior disciplinary record or
activities; Shoatz will have a single-cell status for life, meaning he
will not have to experience the extreme hardship of being forced to
share a cell following decades of enforced isolation; a full mental
health evaluation will be provided; and the DOC has paid a monetary
Russell Maroon Shoatz had the following to say about the settlement: “I
have nothing but praise for all of those who supported me and my family
for all of the years I was in Solitary Confinement, as well as helped to
effect my release. Since joining the struggle for Human Rights in the
mid 1960s, I have always chosen to fight! Frederick Douglass was right
when he said ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ So have no doubt
that I see this Settlement as anything but the latest blow struck, and
you rest assured that I will continue in the struggle for Human Rights.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, said: "This
settlement is a major contribution to the quest to outlaw prolonged
solitary confinement in the US and around the world. I congratulate Mr.
Shoatz and his family for not giving up and his team of lawyers for a
committed and highly professional approach to justice."
Shoatz had been held in solitary confinement in the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections (PADOC) since 1983. For 19 months between 1989
and 1991 he was held in the general population of the federal
penitentiary at Leavenworth. Upon return to the PADOC in 1991 he was
immediately placed back in solitary confinement and held there until
February 20, 2014, when he was released to the general population at
State Correctional Institution Graterford, 10 months after he filed suit
in /Shoatz v. Wetzel./
The case challenged the more than 22 consecutive years that Shoatz spent
in conditions of solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment
due to the severe deprivations of basic human needs imposed on Shoatz,
including mental health, environmental stimulation, social interaction,
sleep, physical health, and exercise. Shoatz also challenged violations
of his procedural and substantive due process rights.
As noted by Judge Eddy in her February 2016 decision ordering a trial in
the case, plaintiff’s expert, psychiatrist Dr. James Gilligan, stated in
his report in the case that Shoatz has spent “virtually his entire adult
life in complete and coerced social isolation (and sensory deprivation)
- which is among the most abnormal and pathogenic environments in which
it is possible to place a human being.”
The decision also quoted United Nations Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez,
who was another expert for the plaintiff:
The conditions of detention of Mr. Russell Shoatz, in particular his
indefinite solitary confinement eventually lasting 29 years, constituted
cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment under customary international law
standards. . . . [E]ven if isolation of inmates is not per se contrary
to those practices, indefinite or excessively prolonged regimes of
solitary confinement like the one suffered by Mr. Shoatz certainly do.
In addition to the excessive duration and indefinite nature, his
isolation contradicts the trend of all civilized Nations in that it was
imposed on the basis of status determinations unrelated to any conduct
in his part, and through a meaningless procedure that did not afford him
a serious chance to challenge the outcome.
Shoatz was released from solitary confinement after an international
campaign led by his family and supporters. The campaign to release
Shoatz included 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 also endorsed his release from isolation.
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.
Shoat[z].” (see /Democracy Now! /interview with Juan Mendez and Matt
Meyer discussing Maroon at this link
Shoatz was represented in this case by Bret Grote and Dustin McDaniel of
the Abolitionist Law Center; Harold J. Engel; and Reed Smith attorneys
Rick Etter and Stefanie L. Burt.
Russell Shoatz III rshoatz at gmail.com <mailto:rshoatz at gmail.com> 347-697-5390
Theresa Shoatz tiye1120 at gmail.com <mailto:tiye1120 at gmail.com> 267-456-7882
Bret Grote bretgrote at abolitionistlawcenter.org
<mailto:bretgrote at abolitionistlawcenter.org> 412-654-9070
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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