activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: solitary confinement

release of russell maroon shoatz from solitary confinement delayed

Russell Maroon Shoatz, who has been locked in solitary confinement for 28 of the past 30 years, filed a lawsuit in May demanding an end to the torturous conditions of his confinement. Studies have shown that prisoners placed in extreme isolation can suffer profound psychological and physiological harm. According to a letter to the editor published by the New York Times on July 18,

If you have any doubts about the effectiveness of solitary confinement, lock yourself in your bathroom for two days without a phone, computer, television or radio. See what that does to your thinking. That is how our prison system works, and that is why we all pay for the system’s inability to deal with people it confines and punishes.

Shoatz’s supporters were cautiously optimistic that following his completion of a prison-initiated “step down program,” which he completed successfully, prison officials at State Correctional Institution Frackville would release him into the general population. Yet 10 days ago, officials informed Shoatz that they intended to transfer him to another prison instead. The prison to which he is transferred could then consider him for release into its general population.

russell maroon shoatz files lawsuit demanding an end to solitary confinement

Human rights advocate Russell Maroon Shoatz has been locked in solitary confinement for 28 of the past 30 years. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1972. Although he escaped in 1977 and 1980, resulting in a stint in solitary confinement, he was released to the general population in 1982.

After his release to the general population, Shoatz became involved with the Pennsylvania Association of Lifers (PAL). He wanted life-sentenced prisoners to work with their non-incarcerated family members and other supporters to repeal life without parole sentences. This idea resonated with other prisoners, increasing PAL membership from roughly a dozen people to more than 100.

When Shoatz was appointed interim President of PAL in early 1983, however, he was placed back in solitary confinement. Besides a 19-month period from November 1989 to June 1991, prison officials have refused to release him from solitary confinement ever since, despite his impeccable disciplinary record during that period and for the past 23 years. This week he filed a lawsuit demanding an end to the torturous conditions of isolation in a 7-by-12 foot cell, always illuminated by lights, for 23-24 hours per day.

anarchist hacker jeremy hammond put in solitary confinement for five days

Jeremy Hammond was allegedly part of the small team of hackers that gained access to the servers of Texas-based intelligence contractor Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), which compiles dossiers on activists. According to a November 2012 Rolling Stone article, the breach “not only cost the company millions, but focused worldwide attention on the murky world of private intelligence.” On March 5, after a hacker calling himself Sabu spent nine months working as an informant for the FBI, federal law-enforcement officers arrested Hammond in Chicago. He potentially faces many years, if not decades, in prison.

Hammond has been held at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center for the past eight months. He expects his bail hearing to occur in approximately two weeks. He was recently put in solitary confinement for five days without cause.

On October 2, the ACLU released a year-long study shedding light on life in solitary confinement, finding that extreme isolation causes prisoners to “live in a world of unrelenting monotony, marked by isolation and idleness, where all extrinsic purpose and structure slowly unravels.”

Earlier this year, on June 19, a Senate Subcommittee held the first Congressional hearing on solitary confinement. In professor Lisa Guenther’s statement for the subcommittee, she argued against the practice on philosophical grounds. As she later wrote for a New York Times online forum,

For the sake of justice, not only for [prisoners] but for ourselves, we must put an end to the over-use of solitary confinement in this country, and we must begin the difficult but mutually rewarding work of bringing the tens of thousands of currently isolated prisoners back into the world.