Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz, Living in Solitary

Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz Update

We welcome back Bret Grote, a member of Russell Maroon Shoatz’s legal team. Political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz who has spent 39 years in the US prison system. As many listeners may know, Russell Shoatz has been held under intense lock down spending no more than one hour a day outside of his cell for the past 21 of those years. He was locked up in 1972 for his activity as a member of the Black Liberation Army. Bret gives us an update in recent developments of the case.

Bret Grote:

Almost 2 weeks ago, I went to SCI Greene with a member of the legal team and Maroon’s son, Russell Shoatz III, and when we went into the visitor’s lobby we were informed that he was no longer there.
After 18 years at SCI Greene which has the largest restrictive housing units which is the solitary confinement units, he had been transferred to SCI Mahanoy which is where Mumia Abu-Jamal is currently located in the general prison population.
He was transferred there Thursday March 28, 2013, we put in calls the next day to inquire what was going on.
We actually know this move is in response to the growing pressure campaign that is being waged. The growing support around the country and the legal team having increasing visits.
The legal team is Dan Kovalic who represented Maroon in his due process based challenge in solitary confinement in the late 90s. There are also 2 attorneys from a large international litigation firm.
There’s Dustin McDaniel, who along with myself has formed an organization called the Abolitionist Law Center and five students working on his case.
There was a letter sent to Secretary Wetzel’s office stating that if he’s not released into the general prison population within 30 days a civil action will be filed.
The major one is the 8th Amendment on prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The law on solitary confinement is not very good but its also emerging in response to the 30 year emergence of this type of supermax style long term lock down as an affirmative policy of prison management.
The basic rule of law is that solitary confinement is not unconstitutional per say, but there needs to be a fact specific inquiry into conditions of confinement and also the degree of harm that is imposed upon the prisoner.
The prison officials need to demonstrate indifference to the deprivation of basic human needs.
There are some other grounds that are being put forward to challenge solitary confinement. One of these is happening in the state of New York right now, where the NYCLU has begun representing an individual who was bringing a case pro se.
Duration is one of the considerations that’s supposed to be taken into account by the court.
The Supreme Court has been clear that the duration of deprivation is very significant for constitutional purposes.
Maroon escaped from prison twice. After solitary confinement he was released in the general prison population at the state correctional institution in Pittsburgh in 1982.
At this point Maroon had made a political decision. He had become part of the Pennsylvania Association of Lifers. This was a group approved by the prison authorities. After Maroon became involved and other lifers became involved to take more active role in their interest, more than 100 people began attending meetings there.
They put him in solitary confinement based on participation in unauthorized meetings even though all the meeting spaces had to be opened by staff.
Since 1989 he’s had only one disciplinary infraction while in the prison.
Covering the vent in his cell, it was blowing cold air – SCI Greene.
Maroon was constantly engaging all the other prisoners in educational seminars, studying lessons on geography, on history on working with people to transform their criminal consciousness into community oriented activist consciousness.

Guest – Bret Grote, member of the Russell Maroon Shoatz legal team and member of the Abolitionist Law Center.

Court Orders FDA to Remove All Restrictions on the Morning-After Pill

After a multi-year grassroots campaign and an equally long lawsuit, the morning after pill will finally be available to females of all ages on the pharmacy shelf, without a prescription or point of sale or age restriction. This is thanks to a recent federal court reversal of decisions from the FDA and DHHS, under both the Bush and Obama Administrations. The US now joins at least 63 other countries including the UK, Denmark, France and Ghana in making the morning after pill available without a prescription.

Attorney Andrea Costello:

The case was originally file in 2005 and this was after the FDA had really stalled out and delayed for years in its decision making in whether to put the morning after pill over the counter.
Originally the morning after pill was prescription only and had to show identification in order to get it.
In 2005, the government made a decision to make Plan B available for women over 18.
Under President Bush, decisions were made by high level officials within the FDA to deny access to the morning after pill to women and girls. That was really an effort to appease the administration’s constituents.
It was based on anti-birth control politics and not science.
In 2011 for the first time in history, we saw Health and Human Services under the Obama Administration overruling a decision by the FDA when the FDA decided it wanted to put the morning after pill over the counter without an age restriction.
The lawsuit has always asked for unrestricted access to the morning after pill and all forms of the morning after pill meaning emergency contraception for all women and girls in the United States regardless of age without any restriction on how its sold.
In the history of our country no one has ever had to show their identification in order to get birth control.
I think of this victory as building on the pioneering work of our feminist sisters in the National Lawyers Guild that I’ve had the opportunity and honor to work with.
Catherine Roraback and Rhonda Copeland, Carol Sobel, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
We will be looking forward to seeing it in the grocery stores in 30 days.

Guest – Attorney Andrea Costello, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund Senior Staff Attorney representing the NWL Plaintiffs.

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