[Pnews] Settlement reached in case which challenged the 22-year solitary confinement of political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz

Prisoner News 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. 
Straight Ahead!”

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 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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